Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Clear Desk Policy


Typical clear desk policy in action

Every organisation Tyler ever worked for had periodic bouts of clear desk policy. It works like this.

The boss, who has a huge private office with a huge desk and huge amounts of personal filing/rubbish storage, is trying to drive through a widely bigged-up "change programme". He's hired some expensive consultants, but is getting concerned that all that strategising, sloganising, and general arsing around doesn't seem to be having any effect on the actual stuff the organisation supposedly does. In fact, with whispering at Board level, he's starting to cake it (htp Robert W).

One evening he walks around the open plan decks where the rowers are chained and suddenly understands why. The whole place is a total shambles! All the desks are covered with crap! Paper, books, unopened letters, empty Coke cans, half-eaten pork pies, discarded items of intimate apparel... it's a disgrace.

An untidy appearance betrays an untidy mind. Everybody knows that. So the next morning he emails round the Clear Desk Policy. At pain of... well, something bad.

And this is exactly what's happened at the increasingly shambolic HM Revenue and Customs. Under Sir David Varney (abruptly "exited" four months ago), they'd been trying to drive through a twenty year old management hoola hoop from the manufacturing industry called LEAN production. No matter that it was designed for turning out Toyotas.

Needless to say, it's been a disaster, with delays and error rates creeping up, and staff leaving in droves ( see Politicalblog here for an excellent insight).

The one thing we can be sure of is that it will have no lasting impact on desks. After an initial flurry, people will point out that there isn't enough filing space. They can only clear their desks if entire new banks of filing cabinets are installed... which means more office space will have to be found... which means the office will have to relocate... which means the change programme will alas cost even more than leaving things as they are.

Much more sensible to let the pork pies stay, and for the boss to remain ignorant inside his spacious cocoon.

You won't need me to spell out the "clear desk policy" HMRC really needs.

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