Friday, February 26, 2010

Keeping things current

As you may know, I am in the process of acquiring a new passport, my previous one having expired.

I visited the space that glories in the misnomer 'website' to find out what I need to do. The website consists of one page, regardless of which of the links one selects. The only thing that changes is a line of introductory text across the top.

I printed off a checklist of everything I needed to take with me, and made sure I had it all. Two forms, completed. Check. Previous passport. Check. Two certified copies of data page of passport. Check. Two certified copies of full marriage certificate. Check. Four passport photos of an old and haggard looking woman that people will insultingly believe is me. Check. Cash to pay for passport (no other tender accepted). Check.

I joined the back of the queue outside the consulate. The man in front of me told me he had come to collect his passport. He applied for it in July and received an email yesterday to tell him it was ready for collection! Speedy service it isn't. I only hope mine is quicker than that, I have a fair amount of travelling planned.

While I was waiting, I noticed several people being sent away to a nearby photocopy service to get this or that document copied. Two thoughts occurred to me about this. First, the website informs visitors that documents can be copied on the premises. I had chosen to get mine done in advance because the cynic in me wanted to avoid the possibility of "the machine, she is broken" - heard all too often in South Africa. Second, why hadn't these palookas printed off the list as I had done, to ensure that they had everything they needed. I began to feel a little smug. Obviously, the machine, she - blow me down - was broken, and I was going to be one of the few who had prepared for this possibility. Ha!

When I finally got the front of the queue, I opened my neat envelope and handed all my tidily organised documents to the lady on the desk. She told me my application was incomplete because it did not include two certified copies of my UK permanent residence permit. I pointed to my neat list and explained that this was not a requirement for this application. Oh, but it is, apparently. The website is wrong. I would have to go around the corner to a photocopying place and have it done. I reminded her that the website clearly states that copies can be made on site. I asked if the machine, she was broken. Apparently not. Apparently the website is incorrect on this score, too.

So, like all the other 'palookas' before me, I had to go off and have some additional items copied.

Some time ago, I created an online resource for a client. Included in the deal was that I taught them how to update the site whenever any of the data it contained became obsolete. I encouraged them to use fresh, up-to-the-minute material, but to keep a weather eye out for the need to change it.

In a situation where users are dependent on the accuracy of the content of a site, it is important not to let them down.

Sadly, although I'm sure several people have tried to explain this to the South African Consulate (myself included), they seem to think that it is sufficient to simply say to a person who has gone to significant expense to be there in person (my train ticket was over £80!) that the website is wrong.

The machine, she is not the only thing that is broken!


Harold Jarche said...

The problem with the structure of bureaucracies (both public & private) is that the individual is not responsible for his or her actions. People inside hierarchies become loyal to the system and not the clients they serve, because it is only the system that rewards and punishes them.

As Churchill said, first we shape our structures and then our structures shape us.

I still believe that structural/organizational change is our most important work. We can implement all the programs we want but we need to adjust the organizational DNA for real change.

The upsycho said...

@Harold As my kids would say "True dat." The DNA, she is broken.