The Case for Just Doing Shit

This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.

Once upon a time, I firmly held the belief that established rules were there for a very good reason – that even if I didn’t understand that reason, there surely was one, and thus I should follow those rules.

Then I discovered corporate bureaucracy. What that taught me was that there is nothing more true than this simple phrase:

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
RAdm. Grace Hopper

Time after time, I have seen good ideas – my own and those of others – shot down with a cry of “you can’t possibly do that”, or “that’s not how we do things”, or “you have to follow the proper process”. And for every outright refusal, I have seen another idea dia a slow death at the hands of unanswered calls and archived emails.

Nope. Bollocks to it. Progress isn’t made by asking permission. Progress is made by doing things, and later, if an apology is required, begrudgingly giving it.

Case in point: years ago, when our company moved to a new intranet, someone pointed out that it would would be nice to have a page that matched names to photos to help new recruits figure out who everybody was. Everyone I spoke to agreed it was a good idea, so I asked if I could make this page.

Big mistake.

Months later, after weeks of chasing the appropriate people to agree to it, other people who could sort out the photos, chasing HR, I had achieved absolutely nothing. I gave up waiting and cajoling these people, coded it in my lunch hour and asked everyone to upload their own photos.

It was a modest success. And today, three years later, we received an email from HR saying:

In response to requests from employees and managers, most recently at [HR Director]’s [meeting] session on the 3rd October, an “album” of employee’s head shots and names will be set up on Sharepoint to help put names to faces.

I laughed, and laughed, the chuckle of a man who can see a heady irony where others cannot.

That intranet page is a pretty insignificant footnote in the grand scheme of things, but it is vindication nonetheless.

Progress is not made by asking what can be done, but by doing things, and only afterwards finding out that they were impossible.


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