While there are many incompetent organizations running around, the one that takes the cake is the Los Angeles Unified School District. I was initially alerted to the dysfunctional nature of LAUSD when I once shared a table at a seminar with a senior executive of a major Los Angeles based corporation. In an unsolicited comment, he indicated to me that along with a number of other local business leaders, he had worked with LAUSD to try to improve the organization's structure and performance. However, he sadly concluded that LAUSD was totally beyond repair.
Over the years we have had many glimpses of this organizational train wreck, charitably described by the Los Angeles Times as a civic disgrace. We all know about the payroll system boondoggle that cost the district tens of millions of dollars. Now outdated and inefficient government computer systems is nothing new. But the specifics of the problems with the LAUSD payroll system were truly alarming. So many arcane job and payroll categories that it is no wonder why sophisticated computer consultants could not put together a working system. (An amazing 1,100 pay categories for fewer than 100,000 employees.) No single person at LAUSD in charge of the payroll project. Using an inappropriate software package. And poorly trained clerks trying to crank out the monthly payroll.
Time after time the same message reverberates. Nobody in charge and overlapping responsibilities. Separate departments for elementary school bilingual education and high school bilingual education--and no communication or co-ordination at all between the two groups. Is this any way to run an organization?
Which leads me to the incident that triggered this essay. LAUSD is not only incompetent at the big things, it's also inept when it comes to the little things, too. Mrs. Chandavkl is an employee of LAUSD and as such is entitled to an LAUSD email account. She really doesn't use it, but I do monitor it for her from time to time. Well, visiting the LAUSD email account this weekend, I see a notice that her 80 mb mailbox was at capacity and could not receive any more communications. Well first of all, these days what emailbox is limited to a rinky dink capacity of 80 mb? Even then, remember that Mrs. Chandavkl doesn't use this account. So how did it fill to capacity? Well, it's chock full of communications from Superintendent Cortines and other LAUSD mucky mucks. Well, that's fine, certainly a proper use of the LAUSD email system. But how does it fill up 80 mb? After all, 80 mb is sufficient to support 8,000 messages of 10,000 bytes each. The answer is that LAUSD doesn't send messages to employees in text form. Rather, it sends them as attachments, quite often Acrobat files of 500 kb. (And don't get me started on the fact that these documents cannot be opened out of the email view--they have to be saved to disk, unless you use your browser's "Open new view" option.) Why do they do it this way? From what I can tell, it enables them to message employees on letterhead bearing the colorful LAUSD logo on it. And of course, these messages are important, aren't they? Certainly yes, like the 1 mb color poster informing employees that they need to move their clocks forward for daylight savings time.
The shortcomings of the LAUSD email system may not be significant in and of itself (certainly LAUSD demonstrates higher levels of incompetency on a daily basis), but it demonstrates further that they are incapable of doing anything correctly.