Process whiplash

Looking at the monthly statistics from the Human Resources department, Snorrebaard is upset: How can it be, that the number of absent employees is twice as high as normal? He is still wondering about the figures when the telephone rings.

“Hello, Snorrebaard speaking,” he says.

His colleague Krullestaart is calling. He is letting him know, that he won’t come to work today. He has an headache and feels dizzy.

“How come?”, Snorrebaard asks.

Krullestaart has no idea.

“But you are not overworked, I hope?” he wants to know.

“No…,” Krullestaart answers. “Why should I be overworked? Since you have frozen all development budgets, because of the upcoming plans to go public, there is nothing left to do for me.”

Snorrebaard nods: this is not the right moment for a fundamental discussion about the need for a comprehensive business review, before a new course is taken. He wishes his friend to get well soon and hangs up the phone.

Still, Krullestaart’s words make Snorrebaard wondering. Might it be, that his sickness absence is actually triggered by the recently announced business changes? If yes, how?

Krullestaart decides to get to the bottom of the issue by means of a scientific experiment. This morning a colleague from the design department will return from his vacation. How will he react, when he finds out about the latest organizational developments? Without further ado Snorrebaard installs a webcam, to observe his design colleague as he is reading his e-mails, without being noticed. (Of course this violates privacy rights, but Snorrebaard decides to ignore that for the sake of the health of his employees.)

As soon as his colleague boots up his e-mail program, he starts to shake on his office chair, as if an invisible hand is pushing him back and forth: Reading an old e-mail with the subject line “Prototypes must be finished two weeks earlier”, one can see how his body anticipates the acceleration. Reading the message “All projects on hold”, he bounces with his nose against his monitor. And the latest news, about the E-Cheese Company going public, makes his office chair spin around beyond control. Shortly before the designer looses his consciousness, Snorrebaard intervenes.

The experiment proves: Just like race drivers are exposed to constantly changing acceleration forces (G-forces), office workers are subject to so-called “iteration forces ” (I-forces). Especially by the end of development phases and during operational changes the stress can be extreme, which results in high absence levels. If the business process suddenly stagnates, but the employee’s mind is still on speed, the sudden slowdown can cause a process whiplash.

Although the problem is very complex, the solution is conceivably simple. Snorrebaard picks up the phone again.

“Hello Krullestaart? I got it! You are just suffering a process whiplash. Please go to the orthopedic doctor and ask for a neck brace. I will dig out a toy racing car from the Quatsch-quarry, take out the shell seat, and set up an I-force resistant workplace for you.”


“What do you mean… you want a compensation for pain and suffering?”

The Quatschtronauts