How about the time charging system, where you had to record all work activity to the correct charge number to the nearest tenth of an hour? If you worked on multiple projects and used multiple numbers, you might end up taking more than 6 minutes to do your time card entries. I seem to recall that there was a special charge number to use in that situation, to correctly and completely account for the time spent doing your time card!
On my first job working for a defense systems contractor, I was a design engineer on a project that required a Top Secret security clearance. In order to enter this secure area, employees had to swap out their regular company badge (used throughout the facilities) for a special, classified badge, which was required to gain entry. I imagine it was similar to the type of badge that Radcliffe describes.
Each badge was stored in a designated slot in an open card rack outside the entrance door, and employees were responsible for making the switch between badges. Classified badge out, regular badge in, and vice versa when you left the secured area. It was entirely the employee’s responsibility to manage this exchange—in fact, an empty slot (forgetting to put your badge back) would get you written up.
After lunch one day I reported back to the secured area, pulled my classified badge from its designated slot, only to realize with amazement that it wasn’t mine: The employee photo was of a male who looked to have a few years on me. I'll just leave it at that.
Obviously I couldn’t get back into the secured area without my classified badge, which was nowhere to be found. Confusion ensued all around, and I suppose someone somewhere got written up. To this day, I'm still agog at the flimsy security system in place for an important classified project.
I've heard of places that are worse. One friend of mine was subject to triple security. He had his regular badge which enabled to get to a security checkpoint where he could get another badge, which enabled him to get to another security checkpoint for another badge. This badge enabled him to get to yet another checkpoint where the three previous badges stayed the guards hands from shooting him until the guards checked a list to see if he was allowed into the secured area where he worked.
I guess it's the blame culture that pushes people to extremes in order to remove any possibility of them being charged of a misconduct or incompetence. Everyone tries to pass the buck to the next, and we end up with systems like the ones described above which make non sense. Yet if you dig deeper you discover that pieces of the system make sense for the individual(s) behind them. No one cares about the big picture.
Sounds familiar. 20 some-odd years ago I had the pleasure of needing a security clearance for my first job out of engineering school at a not-to-be-named aerospace corporation (the names have been changed to protect the guilty!). Another engineer waiting for his security clearance clued me in when he said, "You would think that the security people would be the best and brightest; not so!" I was there for over 6 years and looked at probably 2 classified documents the whole time, yet because I worked in a secret building, I had to have a special badge and had to unlock the combination lock every morning and lock it every evening when I left. The silliest thing to me was how we had to log in and out on a sheet of paper right on the outside of the door. That's an example of poor operational security; if somebody wanted to break in, all he/she would have to do would be to look at the log to know when nobody would be around! Duh, just make it easier for spies! I found an awful lot of incompetence being hidden behind locked doors.