I have to admit that although my work place is close to ideal, even by my standards, I can’t help but be extremely tempted to write about the idiosyncrasies of my workplace. Forgive me if I may seem vague at times, but it’s all done for good reason – my poor command of English or secrets.

For the first detailed post on my work place, I shall attempt to describe the characters that make up my department.

The department is run in a pretty strange way, or so to speak, highly militarised. It’s something you will never see outside the context of the military due to efficiency and practical issues. You’ll know just by looking at the hierarchy of my office, more on that later. The thing about the military is that there is a very distinct (read: elitist) group of people known as officers, and ‘everyone else’. From my experience, whatever the officers say or think, it’s deemed to be right, regardless of logic nor reason. So basically, ‘everyone else’ becomes ‘yes men’ whether they like it or not. With the background of the military classes in place, I can begin with the hierarchy.

The department is headed by the ‘Head of Department’, a senior ranking officer. Working under him is the ‘Deputy Head of Department’, a mid-ranking officer who has probably gone through Command and Staff College. Further down, there is a vacant office, entitled ‘Assistant Department Officer 1’, staffed by a junior to mid-ranking officer (There’s ADO 2 too which is vacant).

Then, we have this ‘Department Middle-manager 1’ which is staffed by a Warrant Officer – Non-commissioned Officer who have at least 20 years of experience in the organisation (read: stagnation). The ‘Department Middle-manager 2’ is currently vacant as the person quit a few months ago, probably due to unhappiness with upper management. Then, there’s this ‘Department Lower-manager’, staffed by a senior Specialist – Specialists are generally NCOs (non-commissioned officers). Below him, are two ‘workers’, all NSFs, one of whom is yours truly (NSFs are generally victims of National Slavery).

We have at our assistant, a ‘Department Clerk’, an NSF who generally does mainly paper work and fight through red tape.

That in short is my working structure. My organisation has this obsession with ‘following the chain of command’ where by you’ll see message passing in action as mentioned in my previous post.

I have to disclaim once again that I’m extremely fortunate to be working there as I hardly have to hold any weapons and run around like headless chickens in the mosquito infested overgrowth known as Lim Chu Kang on a regular basis. This is just meant to be an amusing discourse about the organisation and the effect of the ‘lack of market pressures’ (read: virtually unlimited budget).

Case in point, we (meaning the NSFs) just managed to get our request to order S$1.6k worth of stationery approved. The figures are in my honest opinion higher than market rate as that’s how the suppliers rip the organisation off. Moreover, we don’t have a choice in choosing the supplier as there are limitations and restrictions on which supplier we can use to have our stationery supplied by, some of which, I’ll list below.

Before I get to it, I’ll need to go into more background. The organisation wants to be ‘paperless’ and thus, all purchases to be made must go through this procurement system. It’s basically a giant catalogue of products from all its compatible and recognised suppliers. The gigantic downside is that there’s no way around the system, it is extremely slow, and product names are quite technical, not something you see on product labels. This effectively negates the search functionality.

So, here are the rules:-

  1. Find it from the catalogue if possible. Create a non-catalogue item as a last resort (more on that later).

  2. Get everything from the same supplier, no mixing and matching, per request, regardless of the price.

Fulfilling the first rule is pretty hard if the search functionality is ineffective. Most of the time, we end up creating a non-catalogue item(s) request. This involving calling up one supplier found in the system, telling them what we need, and having them fax to us a copy of the quotation. Then, we have to go into the system to enter each item from the faxed quotation, its description, price, and all, and submit it with valid justification. Most of the time, our justification for the non-catalogue request is “item not in catalogue”.

So basically, that’s how that one supplier tends to rip the organisation off just because it has the widest range, not the most economical priced.