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Process Over Outcomes, It Can Be a Government Disease

Can you spot “yattafuri” when you see it, or participate in it?

I saw the quote below and the definition of “yattafuri” and immediately thought of some of the fiery hoops we must jump through ourselves to get a project done, or processes we see being done that lead to no meaningful outcomes.

Here’s the quote:

“Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University, calls it an example of what is known here as ‘yattafuri,’ showing you are doing something without actually doing anything: a superficial approach that values procedure over outcomes.” The underlined text is my emphasis.

I can think of two such everyday events in our lives today. There is a reason that the screening of passengers at airports has been called “Homeland Security Theater.” Or yattafuri by another name. Then there is the temperature screenings that have happened during the coronavirus pandemic as you enter different facilities. COVID-19 theater or yattafuri? I’ve asked people if they have ever turned anyone away due to a temperature check and no one has said yes — yet.

As for screening people at airports, how about the old lady in a wheelchair who is clearly elderly and infirm. Do you make her get up out of the wheel chair to get screened? I’m willing to accept that risk. Or the old man who can’t understand the instructions, who has an artificial knee or hip that keeps getting passed back through for additional screening. I’ve seen both of the above. Yattafuri for sure.

When we are in control, let’s make sure we don’t create yattafuri for others, just to justify what we are doing.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.
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