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Peter Neilson asked...
> Does anyone know what it is about the purchasing department function
> that causes this situation to be so common? I have seen similar kinds
> of incompetence at a major manufacturer of electronic test equipment,
> MIT, and at a major computer manufacturer, all over 20 years ago, and
> am not surprised to see that the situation continues.
> Problems in quality are well understood. In many companies the
> manufacturing section hounds the quality department to pass bad
> The cause is the belief that the quality of goods as manufactured is
> "good enough" and that the inspection merely gets in the way of
> production. Quality is told to keep their noses out of the way, and
> stick to making statistical reports. As a result, a lot of honest
> quality engineers have quit or been fired several times.
> But what's going on in purchasing? Are the buyers being judged on how
> little money gets spent? Or on how much stuff they can buy through
> "approved" channels rather than as special purchases? I've seen many
> cases of common (and thus incorrect) parts being substituted for
> desperately needed special parts. Five-percent resistors were
> substituted for precision resistors, presumably because they were so
> much cheaper. Engineers took to buying certain parts out-of-pocket
> getting reimbursed out of petty cash, with a faked receipt if need be.
> At MIT, I found that central purchasing had acquired a whole shi*load
> number 2B and number 3H drawing pencils in error, and was sending
> to any department that needed regular number 2 or number 3 pencils.
> Complaints were rejected with, "Sorry, that's what you get." I went
> bought my own pencils at the campus bookstore, and didn't even ask for
> At the computer manufacturer, the printing of books was placed with
> companies that did not have facilities to effect correct production,
> against the express request of the book production manager.
> What forces are actually at work inside purchasing?
It is a little-known fact that there is a confluent vortex in the
space-time continuum that is formed in the space between "Purchasing"
and the rest of an organization's corporate departments. This vortex was
accidentally discovered by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon when he
was poking around the eastern seaboard of what is now the state of
Florida in search of the fabled "Fountain of Youth."
On this expedition, our intrepid adventurer encountered a group of
native shamans who appeared much too youthful for their reported age,
and he believed this to be a property of a mystic fountain of water that
they told him was "a really stinky spring beyond the river of grass and
man-eating alligators that will really like your shiny armor." Of
course, his translator believed them to say "the Fountain of Youth."
In reality, of course, there was no Fountain of Youth. There was this
confluent vortex in which these particular shamans lived, in which time
moved at an extraordinarily slow pace with respect to time outside the
vortex. Far from being superstitious, unsophisticated savages, these
Native Americans were shrewd businessmen, and they ruled over their
tribes with the powerful magic of their youthfulness. Their favored
tactic when a dispute arose among members of the community was to have
the disputing parties argue their sides of the issue, then tell the
tribe, "We must go to our hut and meditate on the issue. We will render
you a decision tomorrow."
They were true to their word, but they were shrewd enough to understand
that because of the different speeds at which time flowed inside and
outside the confluent vortex, when they came back on their own personal
"tomorrow," so much time would have passed that the disputing parties
would either have forgotten the dispute or it would have escalated to
the point that one side would have risen up in anger and killed the
other, thus solving the problem for the shamans.
Unfortunately there was one flaw in the shamans' plan. They did not
count on the greed and savageness of Ponce de Leon and other European
settlers and explorers, and one time when the shamans retreated into the
vortex, they came out to find the village of St. Augustine and the first
clothing-optional sunbathing beach on the East Coast in the place where
only the day before (to their reckoning) a large settlement of Native
Americans had been.
Realizing that their lives--never mind their way of life--were very much
in jeopardy, the shamans found a mild-mannered seeming European, who
turned out to be the Fort San Marcos' purchasing accountant, and shared
the secret of their confluent vortex with him, and the secret of
concocting his very own similar artificial singularity.
Quietly the accountant took the knowledge the shamans imparted, and in
return requisitioned a luxury yacht to transport the shamans to the
Playa del Sol on the southern coast of Spain where they lived out their
days in hedonistic joy surrounded by bronze-tanned Spanish and French
maidens. Meanwhile, the accountant, one Carlos Pablo Althazzar (known to
his friends as CPA) made a sizeable fortune by identifying and training
selected youths in the art of creating the confluent vortex
singularities as the shamans had taught him.
Thus, the secret knowledge of the shamans has been passed down from
generation to generation, but always confined within the Fraternal Union
of Buying Authorized Requestors (or FUBAR), which Don Carlos established
just before he retired. And when any FUBAR member is tapped to head the
Purchasing department of a large company or organization, he or she sets
up the confluent vortex singularity to separate their realm from the
rest of the company.
Thus we see the phenomenon Cathy and others have reported. Someone on
the outside of the vortex submits a request, and someone on the inside
of the vortex promises it will be done tomorrow. Of course it will be
done tomorrow. FUBAR members are nothing if they are not completely
honest, and by the time their tomorrow comes around (on the inside of
the vortex) the request will be processed and appropriately handled.
And now you know the rest of the story. Or either that something I just
made up--one of the two...
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