Three things I don’t understand

Checkbox (or tickbox) culture - image of lots of coloured checkmarks

Box-ticking: the process of satisfying bureaucratic administrative requirements rather than assessing the actual merit of something; the fact of doing something just because there is a rule that says that you must do it.

During a recent conversation, a client used the term “tick-box government”. (Thank you, V – I told you I was going to use it!) A tick-box culture is also called a checkbox culture, based on what you call the little square you tick (or check) on forms. It describes an approach that checks off items on a checklist to prove compliance (or anything else). As we all know from experience, that doesn’t actually prove true merit.

And that leads me to the first of three things I don’t understand. Of course, there are many more things I don’t understand. But I take comfort in the words of somebody wiser than me:

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

Tick-box procurement

The procurement process in government and larger organisations demands masses of paperwork. The main purpose is simple: to prevent fraud. There may be extra reasons, like the need to track preferential procurement. But ultimately, you want to know that you pay the right people for the right thing (and that you actually get it).

But it’s easy for the buying process to deteriorate into a box-ticking exercise. Procurement officials check that all the boxes are ticked, but don’t apply their minds. Maybe it’s because they are not accountable for anything except the checklist. Maybe you should train them, then trust them, then hold them responsible. Here are two recent examples:

Tick-box procurement #1

Any document can be faked. Company A asked for a certain document to confirm some information. All they had to do was log on to the official (CIPC) site and verify the information themselves (for free). And then they wouldn’t have to worry about fake documents. That’s why some of the information is online in the first place.

Tick-box procurement #3

Company B has to accept the cheapest quote received. They received a quote for training that they know is absurd. Now they are stuck trying to work around it.

Training is expensive. Bad training is ridiculously expensive, even if it seems very cheap. If a company is big enough for an RFQ process, they are big enough to have the right people set up the right requirements to get the right product.

Call centre management

For the first year of the pandemic, we forgave the call centres for many sins. Now I’m not really feeling the love anymore. How do you feel when you hear the message “We are experiencing extremely high call volumes“? Did someone forgot to change the message after 2 years? Why they don’t employ more people if the problem is so persistent?

Thanks to a leaking geyser, I had to call the insurance company. And I had to call about 5 times in 3 days. Of course, I got the high call volume message. I also had a few novel experiences:

  • The pre-recorded message listed alternative online ways to register my claim. None of them worked.
  • I chose the option to have someone call me back, instead of holding. Something called my back, put me on hold for 6 minutes, and then asked me to rate the service. I was the only human on the line. A glitch in the software? My rating wasn’t complimentary.
  • Every time, the call centre software estimated my wait time to be 10 minutes. It was always closer to 30 minutes. Shouldn’t this be statistically calculated?

I also had a surprisingly painless call to the SARS call centre. But it underlined my questions about that message. I got the high call volume message – but an estimated wait time of only 1 minute. And it was only 1 minute.

The metaverse

ITWeb reported that a Web3 consulting firm launched its metaverse studio at the GovTech 2022 conference. That’s awesome. But I worry that “metaverse” will become another buzz word for a government that is struggling with far more basic challenges.

I don’t understand the concept of the metaverse. So I did some research. It seems nobody really knows what it will be. There is a great article about it on It made me feel much better about my ignorance.

What is making you confused these days? And do you have an answer to my call centre questions? Please share your thoughts so that I don’t feel alone.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank You

We're Excited!

Thank you for completing the form. We're excited that you have chosen to contact us about training. We will process the information as soon as we can, and we will do our best to contact you within 1 working day. (Please note that our offices are closed over weekends and public holidays.)

Don't Worry

Our privacy policy ensures your data is safe: Incus Data does not sell or otherwise distribute email addresses. We will not divulge your personal information to anyone unless specifically authorised by you.

If you need any further information, please contact us on tel: (27) 12-666-2020 or email

How can we help you?

Let us contact you about your training requirements. Just fill in a few details, and we’ll get right back to you.