July 28, 2017

The People vs. Processes

The process isn't the problem.

In the wee hours of the morning, Senate Republicans failed to do something they’ve been promising to do for seven years now: repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”).

Throughout the last few months, as the members of the caucus have worked to craft the legislation that would make fundamental changes to our healthcare system, numerous voices on both the left and the right have come forward to complain about the process Congressional leaders have followed to create a bill. Copy has been written in secretive, closed door meetings (or, perhaps, roughed out on a napkin over lunch). Debate has been limited or outright cutoff. In some cases, Senators haven’t even been certain what it was they were voting for (or against).

So regardless of where you stand on the merits of what these legislators have been trying to do, I think it would be fairly uncontroversial to say that the process they’ve followed has been rather messy.

But I’m not here to talk about that today. Instead, I’m going to talk about bagels.

That’s right. I want to talk about those lovely discs of boiled and baked bread dough that, when smeared with cream cheese or wrapped around eggs, make for such a delightful part of breakfast… or brunch… or a midnight snack…

Where was I? Right. Bagels.

We buy the pre-sliced variety in our household because the less my elementary school-aged children have to wield sharp objects, the better.

Sometimes, however, we’ll get a batch where the blade hasn’t quite done a thorough enough job, leaving chunks of bagel quite intact and making for a rather messy job when you try to separate the halves by hand. Anyone who has tried to spread cream cheese or lox over the weird bumps and craters left behind by poorly pre-sliced bagels knows my pain.

Of course, pre-sliced bagels are sliced by huge, industrial-sized machines whose entire reason for being is to cut up baked goods. The process followed by such machines is exactly the same for every single bagel that passes through its guillotine.

However, just because the process is the same doesn’t mean it is precise. The fact is, machines are simply blunt instruments programmed to do a specific job. The machine doesn’t know if a bagel came out of the oven a little oddly shaped. It doesn’t notice if its blade has become just a hair dull. It won’t care if there’s a little wobble or give in the slicing mechanism, causing the cut to miss the mark by a fraction of a centimeter.

No, it takes a person to notice those things. After all, people are ultimately the caretakers of any process, whether that’s a process to slice a bagel or to pass legislation that affects millions of other people. For a process to work, it takes people who are paying attention to the details, who are looking for potential problems and who are willing to speak up, and maybe even halt a process, if they see something that needs to be fixed.

People make processes. People break processes. And when a process fails, it isn’t the process that’s at fault.

It’s the people.


  1. Kim Schmidt

    This absolutely cracked me up! I loved it! Thank you for bringing such great laughter to my day, Randy! :o)

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