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At the office, I have been ramping up my process-mapping behavior.

I have been getting a lot of people involved. I have been sending to the print shop jobs that come out twenty feet long. The analogy I have been using is a machine shop.

We have been standing side by side facing the process maps, pointing and discussing and marking them up. We have been asking what we mean by the words, the order. We ask what happens if you remove a step, or if you perform two in parallel instead of treating one as a predecessor of the other.

In a machine shop, all of the equipment is three-dimensional. The machines are actual machines that you can see and manipulate. But in a well-run machine shop, there will be visual aids, showing pinch points, showing proper operation of the equipment, maybe listing the steps. Even when the operation is more or less obvious, when the input, the method, and the output really matter, there are job aids.

A coworker and I spent several minutes this week trying to figure out how to adjust the back-stop on a three-hole punch.

And yet when you walk through the cubicle farm, it’s just desks and computers. Every process is abstract. The software developer’s desk looks the same as the administrative assistant’s. 

So I have been hanging up process maps on people’s cubicles and discussing their work with them. We have been marking up the maps as we discuss them. Then I update it, print it out again, and hang up the new one. Then we discuss again.

This should be a standard, an absolute minimum. If your people don’t want to draw out their processes, then they shouldn’t be allowed to perform them.

Of course it’s uncomfortable. Of course some people quibble. Breathe through that. Turn every obstacle and objection into a question. Savor every good question. Revise every lousy question, making it a little more adequate, and then attempting to answer it. Use that mediocre but serviceable question as input into the process of producing a better question. Answered questions are process steps. 

There is always an input, a method, and an output. Rely on that.

Of course all of this is futile. The only justifiable job now is shutting the office down in a humane and orderly manner, making way for automation.  Yes, AI is taking over everything. I’m trying to gracefully close the shop, sweeping up behind me, nudging the humans efficiently and gracefully in their progression to obsolescence.

The only legitimate job is moving consciously towards obsolescence. Anyone who tries to keep their job is being subversive and trivial. The only sustainable method to be employed at this point is to constantly try to make yourself unnecessary. If you do that, you might make yourself useful.

We’re all likely die of dehydration, anyway.

As Klinkenborg intimated, wanting to be done is the devil. Breathing through the obstructions, the resistance, the dismal explosions of anxiety, and asking, how do I respond to this? is the only method I can find worth following.

Inquiry is a tricky skill to develop, isn’t it? Often, there are so many shitty questions to sort through before a useful one surfaces. And the utility of even that one deteriorates.

It seems as if we learn the same lessons over and over, but maybe it’s like a spiral, always returning to the same location, but a little higher, or a little lower.

Heraclitus is more relevant than he ever was.

The concept of dukka is more relevant than it ever was. Someone has observed that suffering is quite a poor translation of dukka. More like dissatisfactoriness. Was it Goldstein or Batchelor? Probably.

It’s so pathetic and poetic to say life is suffering. Clearly it isn’t. But dissatisfactory? Yes. That’s how we’re wired. That is the one necessary characteristic of a macroorganism. We want. We want it to start, and we want it to be over with. We want it to speed up or slow down. We want to do it again, or never have to.

I love the term that the Stoics used, impressions. This is so relevant when trying to be mindful. The impressions are so subtle, aren’t they? A caught breath. A snag you don’t even notice anymore, but which nonetheless affects your behavior. We have to notice all of these in order to sand them out, to level our behavior, to continue refining the process.

 

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