Tag: Desk Jockey

Desk Jockey Leaders – Where Did That Come From?

desk jockey
desk jockey (Photo credit: notorious d.a.v.)

The inspiration that tipped the scales and served as a motivator to write about Desk Jockey “Leaders” came from a headline that appeared on the front page of Friday’s edition of the Toronto Sun (October 25, 2013):

“Despite $862M repair backlog, housing boss says: I need a bigger office! – Keeping Up With the Jones – TCHC Eyes $2-Million Reno to Rosedale HQ”

I would like to think that when people are struggling to survive with the most basic necessities of daily living, renovating the offices of the very corporation that’s helping them would be the last thing on everyone’s mind.

At least one city councillor echoed the voice of reason stating, “I don’t think it’s something we can justify to either the taxpayer of the City of Toronto or our tenant base.” I’m certain this statement also resonates with most people who read the accompanying article.

The CEO of the TCHC (Toronto Community Housing Corporation) suggested that a more professional environment would be more appealing to visitors and tenants and a larger office could be used to host meetings.

I would suggest that focusing on the purpose of the corporation’s existence is first and foremost. Could it be that some people have decided to make a career out of an ever-growing problem that should never have risen to the scope and scale that it has

Whatever hardships the CEO and fellow TCHC employees must endure to perform their work could hardly compare to the conditions that the tenants must live with each and every day.

What could make this any worse? Knowing that our Liberal government wasted $1.1 Billion to cancel the construction of two gas plants – a decision that was sure to win them a few more seats in the last provincial election. No one is accountable and no one is responsible. Unfortunately, the one’s who suffer most are the taxpayers who fund it all.

As I complete this follow-up, there is some good news. The CEO of the TCHC has withdrawn the motion to renovate their headquarters. Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel after all.

Two of my greatest pet peeves are working with people who 1) attempt to manage everything behind their desk , and 2) believe meetings are the answer to resolve everything else that can’t. This article presented a CEO who was planning to do both – in the same office!

As many quickly discover, being a desk jockey “leader” simply just doesn’t work.

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Desk Jockey “Leaders”

English: A desk in an office.
English: A desk in an office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Behind The Desk

For some people, being bound to a desk is an inherent and perhaps unfortunate part of the work they do. But, the last place I would expect to find a lean leader is sitting behind their desk.

I recognize the need for an office and understand that managing a business does require some desk time. However, it’s amazing how some “leaders” think that that’s what it takes to run a business. If you started and run your own business, you know otherwise.

To be in touch with your business is to spend time on the front lines, with your customers,  walking the floor, and simply being with your team – not just when you think they need you. Personally, I like to see and understand what is happening directly at the source. This is not to suggest that we interfere with the normal flow of operations or bypass the hierarchy of people who are running the operation. Rather, it is an opportunity to learn what is going on first hand so we can have a meaningful discussion to make improvements or to resolve any concerns as they arise.

The Desk Jockey

Desk Jockeys, on the other hand, rely on the steady stream of paper flowing through their office, looking for discrepancies or anomalies that don’t align with their expectations. Upon discovery, desk jockeys call the responsible person or persons to their office and proceed to explain the problem and offer solutions to them without really knowing what happened.

Desk Setup June 2009
Desk Setup June 2009 (Photo credit: Trevor Manternach)

If there isn’t enough paper already, desk jockey leaders have a niche for creating more. Attempts to justify their reasons for doing so further exposes their lack of knowledge on what it means to really manage and lead their teams.

We can’t assume the system is working simply because the paperwork is correctly completed. If the system is working, does that mean the physical process is working correctly too? Furthermore, could it be that the system itself is fundamentally flawed to begin with?

No Accident

Of course, desk jockey “leaders” didn’t get their titles by accident. They have a wealth of experience – at least that’s what they tell me – that brought them to their current level of success. It’s interesting to note that I hear this more from “first time” leaders who, sooner or later, learn why it may also be their “last time” leading.

A desk Jockey may also be a “know it all” or “know about”, leaving their teams to suffer and sweat through the issues so they can fend and “learn for themselves”. Almost as though rising to the challenge will make them stronger in the long run. I can picture the analogy well – the baby chick breaking out of its shell to discover the world because to help the chick is to make it weaker than those that did it for themselves.

It’s Just NOT Lean

Desk jockey “leaders” are not fully engaged with the reality that exists within their business. If you’re wondering why morale is low and your team is not engaged, it’s very likely that you’re not engaged with them. Strangely, desk jockeys share the same frustrations as their teams. They just don’t know it.

If you’re an expert, share your knowledge and skills. If you’re not, then you have all the more reason to get out from behind the desk and learn. Having the right answers isn’t going to solve all of your problems but asking the right questions will certainly help to bring you closer.

If our mission is “To deliver the highest quality product or service at the lowest possible cost in the shortest amount of time”, then writing reports for quality deficiencies, cost overruns, or missed deliveries is a strong indication that a problem exists – not behind the desk, but in the operation itself. Meetings and reports are best replaced by real hands on root cause analysis and problem solving that is only effective at the source.

Cell phones, tablets, laptops and other technologies make it possible to conduct business from wherever you are. Run your business from the place that matters most, not your desk. As for me, if I spend 10% of my time in the office, I’ve been there far too long.

Your feedback matters

If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or email us at LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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