Think magically on surveillance

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From Mr H Robert Schroeder.

Sir, Hannah Kuchler’s article about workflow analysis (“Data pioneers watching us work”, Business Life, February 18) points out some serious flaws. These surveillance systems that supposedly reveal individual performance efficiency are totally useless unless they can be made to reflect the peculiarities of the entire table of organisation. I have spent nearly my entire career as a state government employee and I can tell you that individual efficiency cannot be measured on the person’s performance alone. In my organisation, it didn’t matter how assiduously I worked on a project or a document because the people in my chain of command who processed and approved my work didn’t give a damn and, more often than not, my paperwork just sat on their desks.

We had a system called “Doc Track” that was supposed to improve the administrative workflow by identifying who had a particular document and how long they kept it before forwarding it up the chain. It was a dismal failure because it required the trust and co-operation of each secretary and supervisor who had to use it. Whenever I tried to trace where one of my documents went, the Doc Track system could never find it. After much persistence on my part, my paperwork was usually found languishing on someone else’s desk. Thus, despite my hard work, assiduity and attention to detail, my efforts were for naught because my chain of command didn’t care whether they held it up or not.

As for workplace monitoring of emails and computers, I always employed the technique of “black intelligence”. Knowing that my communications were likely to be monitored, I crafted my emails and other communications accordingly. The presumption of being under scrutiny enabled me to lead my “watchers” wherever I wanted them to go. The closer they watch, the more I can manipulate what they know and see. Magicians have been doing this to audiences for centuries.

H Robert Schroeder, Ewing, NJ, US

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