Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Every little hinders (productivity in the Lesotho civil service)

At the entrance to my building in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in Lesotho, we have two sets of double doors - four doors in total. One set is always closed. Only one of the doors in the other set is ever open, as in the picture below*.

Like so many things, I regard this as inefficient and regularly get frustrated when having to allow slow-moving or groups of slow-moving individuals through the door.

The other door can easily be opened - and occasionally I do do it. But, it seems I am not allowed to open it. One security guard - if he sees me walking to the door - actually moves to block it so I can't open it. If/when I have to wait for 30 seconds for some people to walk through, I plan on telling him he owes me R1 for the time I have just lost when I would otherwise have been doing work**.

Having one door open makes life slightly more difficult - you know, one of those little annoying things that needn't be like that - why not change these things? In addition, it slows people down, making its own small contribution to lack of productivity in the civil service.

I am trying to work out why on earth this rule exists. My first thought is for security. Maybe, I thought, the security guard wants to see every face to make sure no one who shouldn't get into the building. But that doesn't make sense - firstly, hundreds (or more) people work in the building and no one security guard could remember every face and, even if they could, the security guard there regularly changes. Secondly, anyone can have legitimate business in the building - for example, paying taxes.

What other reasons might there be for this apparently strange rule?

* You can see me taking the photo in the reflection.
** No, I've not attempted to make an accurate calculation.

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