One Step Forward, Two Reams Back

We've all had them. A good idea gone horribly wrong.

As Boone Supported Living transitions from paper documentation to the much more efficient online Therap system, I found myself reminiscing about a similar experience way back when.

Twenty-first century technology arrived with a loud "thud" around 1989 or so at the bomber plant where I worked. As the Facilities team came wheeling in the new personal computers to replace the old dumb terminals, everyone just stopped and stared. These folks had been there so long it was rumored they were occupying the land in 1941 when the mile-long factory was built around them and refused to go home until they were put on the payroll. Fitting for a defense contractor built during the cold war with no windows and enough steel and concrete around our office area that it was designated as a nuclear fallout shelter. 

During this technological advancement we were introduced to the brave new world of Electronic Mail and Office Systems, or EM/OS for short (the word "email" wasn't yet coined).  We were now connected to our sister divisions all across the nation -- but not the outside world.  We were still waiting on Al Gore to invent the world-wide internet.

The intent behind replacing the old green-letters-on-black-screen dumb terminals with the newfangled personal computers was to become a paperless company. 

Go ahead. You can chuckle here. I do every time I think about it.

My manager looked on in disgust as his new PC was rolled in and hooked up by the facilities engineer. "What the #&%! am I supposed to do with that contraption?"

"Well, you can use it to read and send EM/OS, create and maintain reports, and you can even save data to these floppy diskettes.  This computer will eliminate the need for almost all printed interoffice communications and allow us to conserve paper and significantly lower costs."

"Hmpf."

To him, this 756k beast was nothing but an oversized paperweight taking up space in the corner of his office.  I believe he went on to meet his maker a few years later without it ever being plugged in.

His answer to the "paperless" theory? He would have his administrative assistant print off all the EM/OS each day and put them in a folder.  He would then make handwritten notes on each one, most including messages to run copies and put into his staffs' mailboxes.  He preferred that his subordinates come to his office to retrieve their messages rather than the more efficient manner of getting them at their desk via EM/OS -- keeping in mind that the factory was slightly over one mile long.

I kid you not. One mile.

Besides, it was much easier to intimidate people in person.

EM/OS enabled staff to update managers in real time, thereby increasing the number of messages.  Which created more copies for redistribution. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Thanks to the new paperless system, the company's paper budget increased that year. 

A lot.

I am confident that we at BSL will be much more successful in reducing our paper flow as we move to Therap. So confident, in fact, that I will print off this blog post and pass it out to everyone I meet to make my point.