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We’ll work on that

Once, during a THQ appointment, the head of my department and I realised that we had an area of service that needed revamping and it would mean changing some staff roles, adjusting several budgets to start an entirely new budget, purchasing some IT equipment and establishing some new work procedures and protocols that would have a small operational impact on all of THQ.


I proposed that it would take several months of planning before we could commence the new service and we would be best served by putting together a small working group to think through the logistics of the change and write some new policies and procedures.


He agreed and we arranged a meeting with the Chief Secretary to discuss our proposed way forward. At this meeting, the Chief was in full agreement with us, and I was glad we were going to move forward on a helpful remedy to a problem.


Just as we were walking out of the office, the Chief casually called out to us, “Oh, and I’d suggest putting together a little working party to discuss and select who should be on the working party for the proposal.” My boss gave a non-committal nod and we exited.


As soon as the door closed and we began walking away, I said to him: “I am not putting together a working part to select the working party.” He gave me a slight smile and said: “I was going to suggest you put together a working party to select the working party who will select the working party who will actually do the work. Unless, of course, they delegate it to a sub-working party.”


So, we were in agreement. We got back to his office, picked half a dozen key people and – incredibly, without the aid of a working party – in 10 minutes, we’d selected our working party.


Way back in the 1980s, there was a British political satire called ‘Yes, Minister’ that screened on TV for three series and was followed by a sequel show, ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, that aired for a further two series. Both shows humorously explored the behind-the-scenes working life in a cabinet secretary’s office.


At one stage, Sir Humphrey Appleby (played wonderfully by Nigel Hawthorne) said: “Civil servants have an extraordinary genius for wrapping up a simple idea to make it sound extremely complicated.”


The Salvation Army has had the same tendencies over the years, although it is, I have to say, getting better. From time to time we have made the simplest things far more complicated than they need to be. For example, we must be the only church that’s ever had orders and regulations for colour sergeants (i.e. the person who looks after the flag).


I was at a corps once where there was, apparently, some disagreement among the Home League ladies about whose responsibility it was to care for the tea-towels they used each week. To placate the seething mob, the corps officer – during a Sunday morning meeting, with a certificate and the colour sergeant (!) holding the flag – appointed a lady as the Home League Tea-Towel Secretary and, amazingly, another lady as Assistant Home League Tea-Towel Secretary (I can only assume it was in case there was a tea-towel emergency and the HLTTS was unavailable).


Now, on reflection, I’m actually impressed these people were chosen for office without being selected by a working party!


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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