Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The rise of the second guesser

We seem to be in a world where the "second guessers" reign supreme. By second guessers I mean those people who don't do the work, don't necessarily have the expertise but do hold the power of the purse. Let's look at a few:

  • Health care audit companies. I go to the doctor. I get the treatment. A bunch of busybodies in a backroom then look to see if I should have gone, look to see whether the insurance should pay.
  • Education oversight. A bunch of busybodies telling teachers how to teach - often without ever having been on the front lines of a classroom
  • Consultants. A bunch of busybodies overseeing the work of IT development teams - without knowledge of the problem space. (And yes I am occasionally guilty here)
  • Travel administrators. A bunch of busybodies who administer travel programs without understanding how travel works.
  • Bureaucrats. A bunch of busybodies who impose policy without understanding how the activity being overseen should work - or works in practice.
  • ......
The list is endless. The thing they all have in common, however is that they don't bear any responsibility for the outcome, they exist to "manage costs" but actually add little or no direct value. They fall into the category called "waste" - something that ought to be eliminated in general. Of course, those being subjected to bureaucratic oversight do just enough to keep the bureaucrats off their backs and still, somehow, get the productive work done.

I wonder how much of our economy (and what proportion of employment) falls into this category. How much better off we might all be without such levels of waste.


  1. An MBA, perfectly described.

  2. Interesting observation. Much of this "second guessing" is sold as oversight to some other, usually higher level, party. The sales pitch relies on a) fear, which is usually caused by b) lack of understanding and communication. If the overseen want to avoid the need for second guessers, they usually need to devote more resources into communications to alleviate those fears.