Recently a friend sent me this. I recognized it instantly, although I never knew that it had a name.
There is a management technique called “death swamp” (or “death bog” or “fly paper”). It works this way. Occasionally some young fire-eater comes up with an idea to Do Something. The bureaucracy can’t simply reject his idea because then they’d have to give an explanation for why his idea was rejected. So they pat him on the back, agree that his idea is a good one, and encourage him to pursue it. In fact they think so highly of his idea that they helpfully volunteer information about How We Get Things Done Around Here. They provide a sheaf of forms and advice on how to get the ball rolling.
The young and inexperienced fire-eater happily starts down the road in the direction that has been pointed out to him. In short order he finds himself in a swamp of procedures and paperwork so thick that he is completely bogged down and making no progress. Eventually he gives up.
The next time he comes up with an idea, he is given the same forms again. This time, seeing the forms, he realizes his mistake. He politely accepts the forms and walks away. Around the corner, he throws the forms in the trash and gives up on his idea. Because by then he knows that the only way to escape the swamp is not to enter it in the first place.