Imagine that your job is to paint the stripes down the middle of the road. And not just any stripes, but the double yellow ones that create a powerful visual safety barrier on a well-traveled two-lane road.
Imagine that you’ve reached the line that demarcates city from county and you are told to stop painting the stripes because “That’s as far as we go.”
Imagine that you look up and see that you’ve only got another 150 yards to the bottom of the hill.
Imagine how it must feel to not finish a job that in just a few more minutes of thoughtful effort would be so easily completed.
Do you finish your workday with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? Do you go home and announce with pride, “I striped some of the road today! I made some of the road safer for the residents of that neighborhood!”
“What do you mean ‘some’?” comes the curious reply.
“Oh, well, we’re only responsible for striping the part of the road that is maintained by the county.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Then why do you do it?”
“Because the rest of the road is someone else’s responsibility.”
Look of disbelief.
Shrug of shoulders.
When we allow the red-tape of bureaucracy – be it in our government institutions or our private enterprises – to replace common sense, we also replace the qualities of autonomy and agency that make work the most noble human enterprise.
To be told that “almost” is “good enough” is an insult to the human spirit.