Communication Breakdowns on the side of the information highway


January 15, 2012 by readlisaread

Perhaps it’s my ego, maybe I’ve never outgrown the solipsism of youth (there is still a chance that everything IS about me….), or possibly I just refuse to accept that I can’t change the world, but I’ve butted my head against this same brick wall for so long, I can’t give up now.

I have seen (daily) the problems in a large organization around communications.  I get it, I understand. A message doesn’t just travel from point A to B. There are first considerations of propriety, and politics, and property, and politeness.  Then there is the medium–is the message hard copy worthy, or will electronics suffice. Word of mouth is too unreliable, and even more difficult to maneuver through the channels of diplomacy.

Here’s the thing, though.  My organization is not one of Protocol or State Secrets.  It’s not a high-tech-filled-with-trade-secrets enterprise.  It’s Public Education.  You know, where we help educate the public. Short of confidential student information, all that we do should be transparent and available. Somehow, though, our communication “system” is filled with pit falls, traps and recursion.

Let’s take school websites. About 4 or 5 years ago, some schools were lucky enough to have keen staff members who volunteered their time to construct web sites for their school.  Some schools had no web presence at all.  Rather than helping the needy schools come online, it was decided that all schools must now all have the same “branding”, design and template.  This was insulting enough, given that some schools were proudly individual, and did not want to be the same as the rest.  Now add to it that the template that was to be used was the most user-unfriendly, not-even-ready-for-beta piece of malware that ever dared call itself software. Now tell people they have to abandon a workable, attractive page and not migrate but re-write their entire site to the craptastic new platform.

It didn’t go very well.

Around that time, the Tech Department started to employ a system of tickets.  Now, again, I understand the reasons why. Tech employees need to travel around, and they need to account for their time.  Sometimes jobs need to be prioritized, too. And then there is just simple tracking.  That’s great. When the ticketing first started, any one with a tech issue would navigate to the website, and electronically submit a request for service on the form that prompted all the pertinent information: problem, site, contact person, room # .  The techs would pick up the ticket and act on it accordingly.  That was clearly far too efficient, for the system had to be changed.  Now, we are to email the help desk, explain the problem, trying to include all the relevant information and send it in.  A ticket will be created, and you will get an email to let you know that your email was received and the ticket has been created and you will be emailed again when the problem is resolved. Around this time, I thought the Tech Department might need to rename itself the Department of Redundancy Department.

Here’s how well this system works for me.  I usually follow the protocol, because I try to believe it’s the most efficient thing to do.  And generally it does work.  One day, however, I had a strange problem, one that I didn’t consider a “normal” ticketable tech issue, and I made the grave error of emailing my tech directly.  He made the graver error of forwarding the email to the Helpdesk (bit of an oxymoron, now I think of it, or at least ironic) and asking for a ticket to be submitted so that he didn’t forget to deal with it.  This action resulted in a VERY CLEARLY WORDED EMAIL sent to my attention REMINDING me that there is a system of ticketing that NEEDS TO BE FOLLOWED if the tech department is to RUN SMOOTHLY.  I apologized, we fixed the problem, I moved on.

Until the next time there was an issue. I sent an email to the Helpdesk asking for, well, help. No reply. A few days later my tech wandered in on a routine visit. I asked if the issue had been ticketed. I received a blank stare.  I showed him my sent copy of the email. “Oh…..” he says.  “Yeah, those need to go to:” I returned the blank stare I had received earlier, and then asked “How, er, was I to know the Helpdesk email address had changed?”.  Guess what I got back again?  Yep,  the blank stare. “Gee, I don’t know who was supposed to send that out….”

Yep, communications in a fast paced, technological world.  Do they still make carrier pigeons?


  1. David says:

    This is an example of unionism at it’s finest. Compartmentalization, single problem = many jobs, “I wasn’t informed”, lack of communication. Lack of responsibility.

    Perfect confusion to allow many jobs.

    Perfect example of how a system of websites that were good (and some that were not – allowing parents to ask why they were not working) was quashed into a amalgam of none of them working very well. Many jobs protected, many jobs sustained, many taxpayers dollars spent.

  2. readlisaread says:

    As much as I hate to agree to some of what you say, David, I have to agree with all of it. It’s brutal. The other BIG part of the problem is turf wars. Everyone wants their own little kingdom, and protects it to the expense of everyone else.

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