Lazy Leadership. Somnambulistic Systems.

Leap_1Do you know of leaders who appear to be extremely busy, look worried all the time, are swift in submitting reports and excel at paperwork, but who seem to be accomplishing very little in terms of business results? You do? They are class examples of lazy leadership. Look further and you’ll probably find that their constituents either hate working for them, are resigned to their fate, or are actively sabotaging those leaders behind their backs. The leaders of those leaders probably don’t know very much about what’s going on down at the shop floor, either. These are the ones who enthusiastically display numbers, data and trends for all to see. Most of the time, they are imagining that Indicators are somehow Vindicators.

Then there are other leaders who look calm and unruffled even when it seems that they are in the midst of a maelstrom. Their cell phones are usually on silent, and they don’t answer all calls. Their email inboxes are sparsely populated, and the settlement rate of emails is extremely high. These leaders seem to have lots of free time to take walks and go for events which seem to have nothing to do at all with the work they’re actually supposed to do. Well, they might seem lazy to you, but I doubt if you know many other leaders who work as hard as they do. Real leaders do a lot of their work unseen. Their main role when they do appear to their staff and other stakeholders is to inspire and reassure. To encourage, empower and enable. Do you know at least one such leader? Are you privileged to be working for that leader?

Good leadership will inspire, establish or enforce frameworks and systems that make sense. Lazy leadership will produce somnambulistic systems. Systems, processes, KPIs and so forth that appear to know what they need to do, but are actually sub-optimal and possibly deletrious or downright dangerous to the business. Here are two of them.

Minimum 250 km Requirement for Singapore Taxis

Singapore taxisI was having a casual chat with a family friend in his car. We were discussing the state of Singapore’s public transport system when the topic turned to taxis.  He mentioned that taxis are required to clock a minimum of 250 km per day or fines would be imposed. I had not heard of that before, although it was old news. More likely, I didn’t bother taking note because I wasn’t interested and therefore not paying attention. Imposing a minimum on-road distance travelled of 250 km per day per taxi would seem to improve overall taxi availability, and of course indicators can be found which will show this to be the case. I am just not so sure that it is an indicator that serves any real purpose. With so much data coming in from multiple sources, could not one discern how better to raise the overall taxi availability rate? Surely there are ways of doing so without focusing on the small percentage of taxi drivers who don’t really need to drive taxis for a living, but are using the taxis as a cheaper form of car? All those in that category need to do is earn sufficiently to pay off the daily rental and fuel and they can have the taxi for their own use for the rest of the day. Is this really so prevalent that we must impose a 250 km requirement across the board? Granted, there are diligent taxi drivers and there are slothful taxi drivers. Are we not able to use available data to create structure that encourages diligence and punishes slothfulness? Do people running the system know that their purpose is to raise the level of public transport all round, and that includes not just commuters but taxi drivers?

Handling of a Minimum of 16 Calls per Hour for Frontline Staff

Gladys Moyo at the Emergency section of the Bulawayo Call Centre. Zimbabwe 2012. Photo: Phoebe Anderson

Gladys Moyo at the Emergency section of the Bulawayo Call Centre. Zimbabwe 2012. Photo: Phoebe Anderson

I hear many complaints from harried frontline staff about this. It is so idiotic that I feel like shaking the managers who impose this by the scruff of their necks until their bones rattle. It is not how many calls your frontline staff handle, it is why there are so many complaints in the first place. Granted, Singaporeans can be a grumpy, complaining lot. Granted, most people just want to be heard, to have their grievances aired. Unfortunately, your frontline staff aren’t the Sultan of Oman granting audience to his people once a month. Besides, I suspect that besides having their grievances aired and heard, people do want to see some positive, concrete action being taken. Look at the nature and volume of the calls your people are receiving. How have your people been responding to these calls? Does it tell you about how people feel about the way you do business with them? Are you even interested in knowing? Well, if you are, imposing 16 calls per hour on your frontline staff is not the way to go. The way you transact business needs to improve. The way you develop your staff needs to improve. And the way you devise your indicators, if you even want to have them, most definitely needs to be overhauled!

We cannot afford to be lax with lazy leaders. Somnambulistic systems are dangerous and need to be roused. Why wait until a disaster shakes you up?

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