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James Moore

James Moore

Posted February 18, 2009 | 12:59 AM (EST)

I Know a Guy


I know a guy in Washington who works for a quasi-governmental agency. You know these operations; they have some government money but are involved in endeavors the official government can't really endorse or engage. Usually, it's something scientific that might be new or developing or relatively fringe to the mainstream. Washington spawns these types of organizations like tadpoles in the spring. They all want something; usually, money or political power or some kind of acknowledgment that they aren't weird ones out on the edge of the known horizon.

These groups or organizations or whatever term best applies have to educate. Consequently, they hold workshops. These are conducted for people of influence and maybe even sometimes the general public to build a level of support and understanding. Of course, a workshop is not a minor undertaking. Such an endeavor requires planning and protocols and fact sheets and presentations and demonstrations and planning and did I mention protocols? You don't build influence and create the all-important thought leaders simply by letting the facts do their own talking. There is a requirement to conduct outreach.

How does one conduct outreach? One conducts a workshop. Washington is a town of workshops. Every interest group from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunny shores of California has somebody in Washington planning a workshop or trying to get the money to open an office and develop a special interest. The city is the beach head for pushing out your group's particular agenda.

But back to this guy I know. He works for one of these groups. They conduct so many workshops they wondered if they were doing them correctly and decided to consider this all-important question. Inevitably, they decided they might be done better. After focusing all of their intellectual capacity on the workshops they had previously conducted, they deconstructed their protocols. No answers were readily apparent. Is it possible there was a better way to conduct a workshop? Yes, after much study and introspection and an examination of all that had already transpired, this organization realized things might go a bit more swimmingly. No revelations were experienced but they figured they might conduct workshops a bit more efficiently.

Eventually, they decided to conduct a workshop on workshops. I mean, who would not reach such an obvious conclusion? The workshop on workshops was critically important. Attendees were made to understand there was a right way and a wrong way to conduct workshops on their issues. Much was discussed. Little was learned. But there was still a need to gather information during the workshop on workshops and what was good protocol and what was bad. One does not capriciously conduct a workshop on workshops. People came and commented and many went away and had meetings on the workshop on how to conduct workshops. In fact, there were eventually meetings about how to conduct meetings to discuss the workshop on workshops and best use the information gathered.

Oh yea, so this guy I know had to write a report on the data and insights gathered while conducting the workshop on how to hold the workshop. He wrote it without killing himself or taking any hallucinogens and all the while wishing he'd stayed home in Cheyenne and gotten a job as a roughneck. The report circulated for almost a year in his organization and had to get many important people to affix their signatures of approval. Finally, all were happy about the final edit of THE REPORT ON THE WORKSHOP OF HOW TO CONDUCT WORKSHOPS.

A logical person would think this was the end of this sad tale and the report would be available to all interested parties (could there be interested parties?) However, the organization this guy I know works for was not about to simply issue THE REPORT ON THE WORKSHOP OF HOW TO CONDUCT WORKSHOPS without seeking some sort of official imprimatur. "Perhaps," one of their executives thought, "we ought not release this report without the president signing off. There seems to be a lot of important work we are doing here and if we simply issue this report it might affect our political standing and importance in our community."

Therefore, the REPORT ON THE WORKSHOP OF HOW TO CONDUCT WORKSHOPS has now been sent to the White House. It seems this cannot be issued without the president's approval. While Afghanistan whirls into chaos and Iran simmers and the economy collapses and America is wracked with economic agony, there is actually an organization in our nation's capitol that is waiting through anxious moments to get the president's, or at least the White House's approval, on their final version of THE REPORT ON THE WORKSHOP OF HOW TO CONDUCT WORKSHOPS. It only took 3 years, which is fairly productive for Washington.

If you think I am making this up, you have not spent much time in Washington, D.C.

Also at www.moorethink.com