A customer comes into their local branch of a large service organisation. They have a serious (elephant-sized) problem and are very upset. The frontline staff-member knows – in justice, and from a commonsense perspective - what to do to put things right. However, there has been a change of senior management and a new emphasis on budgeting, control and procedures. And there is a climate strongly coloured by redundancies as part of a series of restructures. The front-line staff-member reports the matter to their manager. In so doing, not wishing to be branded as ‘difficult’, they slightly under-egg the seriousness of the issue.
The manager consults the newly issued procedures manuals but feels that s/he might be ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ so refers the issue upwards. For the same self-preserving reason as the frontline staff-member they don’t wish to stress the urgency and importance of the problem from the customer’s point of view because that would emphasise the inconvenience and cost to the organisation.
By the time the matter has reached the third level of report it looks as though the solution to the issue might set a precedent. If so, a policy ruling from a still higher authority would seem to be necessary.
By now of course, as a result of ratification by multiple layers of authority, the service and response have deteriorated and slowed dramatically. And the eventual decision by the King offers a mouse-sized solution to an elephant-sized problem… because the situation has been bled of its original emotional impact. His decision is therefore based on circumlocutory and tactful hints given by nervous and over-deferential juniors rather than being based on information about raw customer needs.