I was speaking last week with, Jen, a senior manager at a large manufacturer, and she commented to me, “I know it’s important for me to get to the floor, but the time involved for me and my staff to regularly visit two dozen different departments makes this seem like an impossible task.” She was alluding to the scheduled Gemba walks, which were a component of her and her reports manager standard work.
“I understand the challenge, “ I responded, having faced that myself in my last job. I continued, “As a senior manager it’s important for you to be present both to observe, and also to show your commitment to improvement. Spend whatever time you can, but make sure you use the time well.”
Sometimes I worry about the scripted Gemba walks. Even with the script, they often look like a management posse. And one thoughtless comment or even a thoughtless gesture by the senior visitors can create exactly the opposite effect of what is intended. In fact, managers can make a very positive impact on employee engagement in just moments. It’s the quality of the interaction not the duration that’s telling. About ten years ago, GBMP produced a DVD, Moments of Truth, to demonstrate how short encounters, either deliberate or inadvertent, between managers and employees, can have a powerful impact. A short clip from that video, starring GBMP staff members, demonstrates (with a little humor of course) how important a single moment can be.
Of course, the moments of truth could just as well be positive. An employee at a large insurance company related to me recently that, after a short time on the job, he found a note on his desk from a senior vice president whom he’d never met, welcoming him and stating “I’m hearing from your manager that you’re already making terrific contributions to our improvement program. Thanks.” That note set the tone for employee’s career. It didn’t require a structured Gemba walk and probably took about 10 seconds to write — literally moments. But it showed commitment from the highest level of the organization, both to the new employee and to his direct supervisor.
I related that story to Jen and she smiled. “I can think of a few of those moments, both good and bad, that I had when I was on the front line.”
How about you? Are you watching for those moments of truth? Gemba walks are important, but a manager’s impact can be expressed in seconds. Please share a story about your “moments of truth”.
PS Hope to see you at the International Shingo Conference in Provo, Utah next week.
PPS And don’t miss our next Shingo Institute courses (DISCOVER Excellence followed by Continuous IMPROVEMENT – attend one or both, it’s up to you) coming up in the week of May 11 at Vibco, Inc., in Richmond, Rhode Island. Register online here.
BTW: The GBMP lean training DVD Moments of Truth can be purchased at www.shopgbmp.org. Use code “MOT20” by May 8, 2015 to get 20% of the regular price.