It makes me nuts when an organization acts like a sugar-riddled three-year-old in terms of its focus. I’m not talking about companies creating new products every week (which is usually good), but about companies who have so much to do and are so behind the curve that they feel the need to focus on something virtually worthless (usually internally) and spend dozens or even hundreds of man-hours on some silly thing.

Take  (he says in a hypothetical tone but really means this is a real example) for instance, the staff directory. We have one. You have one. We all have them (They’re like belly buttons!). Did you spend more than an hour developing the code for your staff directory? Probably not. It’s a simple thing: here are our people, here is how to find them. The biggest question is whether or not to make the directory publicly accessible.

So, we have a directory. We used to have a paper directory. Yes, it was a total pain (and not the best use of money, I’d wager) to reprint and distribute it every time we hired someone (which, with a staff of upwards of 200 people, it was not infrequent). So, we figured we’d put the directory online, primarily because it’s 2006 and the modern browser is 11 years old now). But, because this organization is filled to the gills with people who are scared of their computers, people printout the staff directory, which ends up being more expensive for the organization than printing and distributing the staff lists like we used to do.

So, one of our programmers decided to spend an hour and tweak the online directory so that you could print a nice clean list. It was a nice idea (personally, I think if your division went out and got you a nice new 3.2 Mhz Pentium 4 machine, you should learn how to use it and not rely on a piece of paper that’s a year out of date, but that’s just me), but it has lead to much hand-wringing and questioning by two department heads and the director of the organization. If I bothered to try and calculate the cost of everyone’s time discussing this silly issue, it’d be almost $1,000. For a staff directory.

So, rather than deal with issues that have a real impact on the organization, everyone acts like a child shown a sparkly toy (“oooo… shiny….”) and are distracted from what they should be doing.

Is it a function of focusing on things they think are potentially fixable rather than deal with the big, real, scary issues? Â Polishing the brass on the Titanic.