I swear that I’ve recently relived this conversation over email, and like in Peter’s case, I’ve had to hear it from multiple people:
Dom Portwood: Hi, Peter. What’s happening? We need to talk about your TPS reports.
Peter Gibbons: Yeah. The coversheet. I know, I know. Uh, Bill talked to me about it.
Dom Portwood: Yeah. Did you get that memo?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah. I got the memo. And I understand the policy. And the problem is just that I forgot the one time. And I’ve already taken care of it so it’s not even really a problem anymore.
Dom Portwood: Ah! Yeah. It’s just we’re putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that’d be great. All right!
Now if you haven’t seen Office Space, well, something is just wrong. But the key point here is all of the paperwork that you need to do in the development world, and then the number of people you hear from if you’ve made a mistake.
One thing about International Development work is that if you’re a project manager you’re most likely on some form of a budget, and someone higher up than you is fronting the cash for that project and that person, or group, expects accountability. Now, you might be lucky to have someone back at a main office who deals with all the bills, but that still means that you, off in some foreign country, need to gather receipts for every little thing you buy related to the project.
But you can’t just send those receipts home and let them sort it out. Most likely the receipts are in some language that the assistant in the home office has never seen nor heard of. So, you’ll need to translate all of the receipts into English and enter the information in some nice, organized spreadsheet, assigning each and every receipt a number and keeping them in date order.
Of course, if you’re vigilant and organized about this process you’ll quickly be faced with a local counterpart that shows up a week later with a receipt or three from earlier in the month. There goes your numbering scheme and date order in one swoop. Sometimes you just modify the date, which will keep your work all nice and fancy and prevent a talk from each boss, or sometimes you start over.
In any case, you’re bound to forget something when dealing with hundreds of receipts, some of which are no more than a square inch in size. A receipt might not get scanned, a number might not match up with the receipt, or the total price might not have been scanned because it was added up on the back side and since the total ISN’T ACTUALLY VISABLE ON THE SCAN it can’t possibly be valid.
So, just a warning to those who are looking at getting into development work: Take an accounting class and never throw away a piece of paper without first having it translated!