Yang: Smaller Bag Is Smaller Than Bigger Bag

Smaller Bag Is Smaller Than Bigger Bag
Column by ELENA YANG

Allow me to have some fun with the following announcement … otherwise, I’d have to cry. 

“Date Published: February 22, 2013

Publisher: URS CH2M Oak Ridge

When double bagging radioactive and/or asbestos wastes, consider using a smaller bag as the inner container and larger bag as the outer container to make an easy fit for the double bagging operations while minimizing the risk of contamination spreading.” 


Of course, my first reaction was the usual, “No s*#%, Sherlock!” I realize that handling radioactive materials requires the utmost care and diligence – but to put the smaller bag into the larger bag requires a memo?! 

Should a worker who needs such hand-holding be in charge of handling radioactive material? Should people in authority feel a profound need to generate this memo – or should they concentrate on making sure right-sized bags are available when needed?

So, being a concerned taxpayer, here are a few images this announcement conjured up in my mind:

  • For every operation of transferring the radioactive materials, there are at least three operators, one to hold the “small” bag, one to transfer, and one to catch potential spills or leaks. In addition, there would be two additional operators to measure the bags, and at least two supervisors, just in case.
  • Continuing DOE obsession with telling everyone what to do – and choking off all creativity and responsibility why not issue tape measures for workers. What’s one more gadget to wear on the neck or put in the pocket?
  • If, by eyeballing, a technician were to decide that the material would fill only half of the bigger bag, by all means, he should use the bigger bag. Just remember to fold it before putting it into the small bag.  Needless to say, this would call for another memo.
  • The imagination runs riot with where and how this “decision” might have been discussed and concluded. There were probably five or six middle-aged adults (loosely speaking) sitting around a conference table and talking about this “issue.” The conversation might have lasted about 20 minutes, minimum, so as to ensure the seriousness of the topic. They finally came to the conclusion to inform others of their wisdom. The chief said to one of them, “Why don’t you take a stab at drafting a memo. I’ll take a look and finalize the version before sending to DOE.” 

This is the quintessential compartmentalization of our working world. We focus only on that which we are assigned, and that bit of territory becomes our sacrosanct domain of “expertise.” 

To demonstrate that we take our “responsibilities and knowledge” seriously, we keep digging for ever more minute details … and we came up with such a memo. 

We are tunneling down into oblivion; we have followed the logic “divide and conquer” and we are conquered. Time to cry now. 

Do you have some positive stories on intelligent management to share?

Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

Direct Contact: taso100@gmail.com





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