The Clipboard Syndrome(EDIT4)|
If you can't solve the problem...
An Editorial Comment
I have a confession to make. I lose things. That in itself isn't too unusual of course because most of us do from time to time. What is a problem is my reaction to it. I panic. When I go to look for a lost item a very predictable pattern sets up in my head. First I do what most people would do and that is to go over all the likely places where the missing item may lurk.
Then a strange behavior takes hold, I go into a sort of holding pattern. I repeat that same search scenario covering all those same locations several times over. I'm hoping I suspect, that somehow the lost item will miraculously reveal itself perhaps on the third or fourth try. I don't need to tell you that this strategy seldom pays off.
If I'm lucky, some of the people I share my life with will come to my aid. With a raised eyebrow that speaks volumes, they will produce the missing item out of, I suspect, some secret hiding place they alone know. But that's another story. The real story is the way human nature works.
I'm not sure how many people react the way I do when they lose things. I do know that in other areas they often do exactly that when faced with difficult problems. How else can you explain some of the strange behavior that occurs even in professional circles. I call it the clipboard syndrome. Let me explain.
Some years ago, we lost a family pet, a little long-haired Chihuahua with the nicest personality you can imagine. One day it became obvious that all was not well with our little friend and we rushed her off to our veterinary clinic. Unfortunately our regular "vet" was away and we were helped by a stand-in.
Right from the start it was obvious she had no more idea as to what was wrong than we did. So out came the stethoscope, the rectal thermometer, the pen and... the clipboard. After making copious notes we were essentially told to take our pet home to see what developed. After a short time at home our canine friend became rapidly worse so back to the vet we went.
This same person once again took charge and to my astonishment repeated the exact same drill of an hour earlier. You know, the stethoscope, the rectal thermometer, the pen and... the clipboard. Again no diagnosis, just more notes. We decided reluctantly to leave our little friend in their care hoping our regular vet might show up in time to do some good. To no avail and early the next morning we were told she had died.
To me, this is a cautionary tale. We will never know if anyone could have saved our pet but I do know that the repetitive cycle of probing and making notes contributed absolutely nothing to her welfare.
Next let me share some of my very few encounters with hospital emergency departments. One of the first was while I was having a pretty serious heart attack. The fact that I'm alive today is a tribute to the hard work and excellent care by those people on the front lines of the medical system.
I have also had an opportunity to visit some other ER's under less dramatic circumstances. This gave me a chance to observe what is a veritable beehive of activity. As a lay person, I have no idea what most of the activity is all about but I did notice a lot of "paperwork" was being generated. A lot of this is now done electronically but I couldn't help but wonder if some of this wasn't just another instance of the "clipboard syndrome".
I don't know if my experience is unique, but whenever I have contacted a law enforcement agency the encounter often goes like this. Instead of dealing with the emergency at hand, a great deal of time is wasted interrogating me.
In one instance I reported the break-in of a liquor store that I happened to notice while leaving my own place of business. I doubt if the perpetrators were ever apprehended because I was kept talking for a full twenty minutes to the sounds of breaking glass and running feet.
On another occasion I hailed a squad car to warn them of an obviously inebriated driver. Having given them a good description, they set out in hot pursuit... of me.
They followed us all the way home at which point they finally abandoned their quest. I can only guess at the contents of that particular report but one thought sticks in my mind: clipboard syndrome.
I may be simplifying things a bit too much, but as I look at all the various encounters I have had with the people I look to in solving my day-to-day problems, the clipboard syndrome often rears its ugly head.
Whether it's the mechanic repairing my car, the plumber dealing with my drains or some official in a position of authority, there appears to be a simple formula. The amount that gets done is in inverse proportion to the amount of paperwork that's generated. The more paperwork, the less gets done!
We can only speculate about some of the other places this monster may lurk. It would be most miraculous if we didn't discover him on occasion in a research lab or at a university or in a law office or, perish the thought, in one or more government agencies. Clipboards, it seems to this jaded observer, have become a substitute for action.
We've all seen the results. In government, if you don't really want to deal with an issue, you study it to death. Vast amounts of money are routinely wasted on these studies which are not really meant to solve anything. In the British parliamentary tradition there is a device taylor-made for the job — the Royal Commission.
What irks me most is that this kind of avoidance behavior causes us the loss of that most precious commodity, time! By going through the motions and postponing the problem we lose both time and opportunity. Even my well-meaning family can't help me find that back.
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