Workplace Wisdom

Short Term Management vs. Long Term Leadership

I watched a woman wrestle with a printer the other day. Unfortunately, the printer was winning.

No surprise. The toothpick she had been using as a shim to hold the printer cover in place would no longer press the underlying spring down with enough force to trigger the mechanism. The printer was so old that the manufacturer had classified it as “obsolete”, an even more dire classification than “unsupported”, which indicates a less terminal stage of equipment aging.

Naturally, I tried to help. My technique with the toothpick was no better. We were both highly pragmatic people, possessed of a broad range of work experience and multiple academic degrees, but despite all our goodwill, patience, cleverness, and wonderfully self-deprecating humor, the printer would not yield.

Of course there were numerous workarounds to use. But talk about unsupported!

It’s not that she hadn’t already asked for a new printer. But she’d been told she didn’t “need” one, because she didn’t appear to have a real problem. After all, armed with perseverance and toothpick, she somehow managed to get her work done. It wasn’t obvious enough that she was spending expensive brain power on a ridiculous struggle, to the detriment of both her own morale and satisfaction — and a significant loss of productivity and innovation.

When a going concern can’t afford a new printer, it probably won’t be in business too long. When it chooses not to afford a new printer — because it understands the cost of a new printer — and instead, wastes numerous hours of highly paid time and the attendant creative thought and esprit de corps — because it does not understand the cost of the time, morale, and creativity — it is substituting short term fiscal management for long term fundamental leadership.

Onward and upward,

LK

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