It's been seven days without electricity in my neck of the woods. Over 500,000 homes lost power, National Grid bragged that by yesterday only 35,000 remained without service. The media said it was 46,000. But who are you gonna believe? The sensationalist media, always trying to get the news out, or a public utility/state government that is far less concerned with the 8 people who have already died, than the bad PR that could arise from this idiotic mess.

I've been on the phone with Grid at least 4 times a day trying to get an update on when they'll restore power to the 12 homes in my neighborhood still without service. Evidently, though. No one in customer service is able to tell me when someone will be out to fix the downed line(s) that are changing our daily lives. It seems that National Grid is the one public utility that simply puts field service personnel into trucks every day and lets them do their own thing. It's an interesting model.

Grid has gone further to tell me that they're working around the clock with other power companies from across the country to restore service. That's comforting. I know they have people in the field from all around. I see their trucks parked in hotel lots, donut shops, pizza shops, and even alongside streets, doing nothing. I saw two crews with one man working and nine orange cone supervisors alongside a highway a few miles from my home. They've even come to my house; four times. One rep didn't want to survey the damage too closely, she said it "looked slippery back there, and besides, they have to get the tree people in here". Three other reps stood nearby the damage, doing nothing for about three full hours. I asked them what they were there for. They told me they were on "standby"; a ten on the accidental comedy scale. On day 5, actually night 5, I finally kidnapped a Grid rep (inspecting a loose wire for a house a few doors down) to survey the damage. He said it was a simple fix, but that he couldn't do it, because he wasn't allowed to touch work outside of his orders.

Today the tree people came, and started cutting broken limbs a few doors down. I asked if they were going to get to my house, they said no. they were the state tree people, and National Grid has contractors to handle utility work. Those contractors haven't even driven past my house, to my knowledge.

So here we sit, seven days later; me and a bunch of my neighbors waiting helplessly for national Grid to burn a pile of money on overpaid, inefficient, sluggardly, robots to do half-assed job that they'll all beat their chest over in a week or two. Here we sit with a governor's office that has ignored our phone calls and letters, throwing a pile of our money at a line full of contractors fattening their pockets while two out of every three workers stands around drinking the coffee out tax dollars bought them, watching one man do some (and "some: is kind) work maybe some of the time.

7 days late, only 46,000 still without power (sorry Grid, you've lost my trust). So Grid can beat its figurative chest about 94.6% competencies only seven days late.

So how is this related to procurement, you ask?

Well, let the Sourcerer answer that question with this question. If FedEx delivered 94.6% of your freight, would they still be your supplier? If you needed your loading dock cleared for another delivery, and two men stood around drinking coffee while one unloaded freight, would those two guys still be employed at the end of the day? If your MPLS was down and the IP told you how well they had done restoring service to other clients and how they couldn't give you a service appointment date much less a restore time, would you be shopping for a new supplier?

Of course you would. Because business depends on it. You job depends on it. Your livelihood depends on it.

Unfortunately, for National Grid, and State and local government business does not depend on it. So whatever service level you get, that's what you get. No one's going to get fired or even reprimanded for standing around and doing nothing. They've brought in legions of men and trucks to do nothing like no one has ever seen. As a matter of fact we're paying them overtime and double time for business as usual. So why on earth would they want to work faster? There's a clock to milk, and the cows are fat in a state of emergency.

It doesn't end there folks, Massachusetts governor Patrick even rode through a few areas and commented on how bad it was, and that we had to prepare for the worst. Thank goodness for his warning. It was incomplete though. He should have said, prepare for the worst of human nature, and the disgraceful politics of patronage. I voted for Patrick. I didn't think he was an empty suit at that time. But the proof as they say is not in the pudding, it's in the eating of the pudding. Well, pudding is a great metaphor for what National Grid and the Governor are feeding us. If the esteemed Gov. really cared a lick, he'd have been holding a chain saw instead of a microphone.

Somewhere, as much as Grid and the Government try to pretend it isn't happening; folks are in positions of power procuring resources to fix this mess. The resources are functioning at a capacity that no modern day business would consider anything better than incompetent. Why? Because it's not in their interests to serve the public, it is in their interests to reward those who can contribute to campaigns and put pools in their backyards. And their jobs and livelihoods do not depend on public service. They’re tied to fashion shows every four or six years, and filthy back-alley deals that belong in 3rd world countries.

But here's the sickest, ugliest end of procurement we can imagine. While it's true that the lives of the slugs in state and utility management are not tied to mere competence, much less effectiveness, the lives of citizens are tied to that competence. Eight residents of Massachusetts are dead. I would "hazard" a guess that at least a few of them died because of the loss of power, or accidents related to a Department of Public Works that has left forests worth of dead and dying trees uncut and uncleared for years on end. All this while those DPW reps sit for hours on end in their cars and drink the coffee we bought them, while they rush to issue tickets for parking on the wrong side of the street on leaf collection day, or stand for hours, on "standby".

It was the Grid rep's boast about how they only had 35,000 people without power after six days, on top of one reps response of "it's like that everywhere" to a power line laying broken in my neighbor’s back yard, on top of some idiot trying to weight the ontological considerations of being without power for three days respective to other situations, that made me cut her short.

"Wow, only 5.6% of customers in life threatening circumstances after six days!" I responded. "If that was my job performance, I'd have been fired on day two. So you're bragging about one disaster after the first one!" She drew her breath to respond, and I added. "But hey, only 8 people are dead so far." She paused and then told me she'd have supervisor get back to me. That was the third promise that a supervisor would call me by the way, but this time a supervisor did call me. She said they were aware of the problem but that she couldn't tell me when power would be restored, or connect me to someone who could tell me.

Meanwhile, My 80 year old neighbor and her handicapped husband were put out their hotel yesterday after four days in, because the room had been pre-reserved for a convention. Another neighbor has a broken electrical wire sitting uncovered in their backyard, and cable and phone service have long been restored by the cable company, because they placed a tiny generator astride a phone pole and return every 8 hours to fill it with gas so their customers have service.

The moral to the story; keep your sense of humor, but take procurement seriously. One never knows how far a half-assed job will reach. Procuring half-assed help to do a half-assed job can be downright criminal. Here in Massachusetts, we're learning the reach of bad procurement more painfully than we ever imagined. There are eight families who know just how much bad procurement matters.

But there are those of you who show up for work and invest yourselves in doing a good job and striving for excellence. The Sourcerer thanks you. It's you that we look to in times like these. Perhaps someday, we'll find some of you in public service, instead of quietly serving the public good.
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