How Do You Know a Process/Database/Document is Not Needed?

It seems to be endemic to bureaucracies that they create a lot of worthless, wheel-spinning work.  This can be extremely frustrating if you are a normal person who cares about doing a good job and making a positive difference in whatever you do.  I often find myself digging deeply into a database or document trying to get that last bit of data correct, or to improve it in some way, when suddenly I realize that I am probably the only person who will ever look at that data, and that my work will end up in a file somewhere, probably backed up in umpteen different corporate storage vaultsand servers as well, and will come to a complete zero as far as providing anyone with anything of value.  This leads to my subject: How do you know?

I started trying to think of ways I could tell if I really needed to do a particular piece of work at all.  I mean, I could put my energies into something providing the most value if I knew for sure.  I realized there are some clear signs telling me when my work is going nowhere, so here’s my starter list.  I hope you will add your own suggestions, as I would like to learn.

How do you know if a document is redundant, or if nobody is using it?
– nobody ever asks a question about it
– nobody ever looks at it
– it is never seen on anyone’s desk, on their cube wall, or in their hands
– no other process/database/document needs information from it
– if using it is mandatory, people deal with it only just before a deadline, and after any real work associated with it is done
– an trace of an email related to it shows most people either delete without reading or delete in less than a minute after opening
– the document or information is never presented to anyone by anyone
– the boss prints it out to take home for a catbox liner or to wrap her/his left over fish and chips from lunch
– it is assigned (consigned?) to the Department of Redundancy Department

Of course, the fact that nobody looks at your work doesn’t mean that mindless bureaucratic robots, program management wonks, and other people trapped in the bureaucratic morass (I didn’t want to say cretins, that wouldn’t be nice, tho some of them may qualify) won’t insist you continue to do it.  All I can recommend is, continue to fight the good fight against bureaucratic waste and take your pleasure when you see another piece of useless doo-doo collapse of its own weight, such as when you stop generating a particularly useless document … and nobody notices!

Please add any suggestions you may have as to how to identify worthless documents/databases/processes.  Thanks in advance — Tim


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