‘Management by walking around’ is hardly ever effective. The reason is that someone in management, walking around, has little idea about what questions to ask, and usually does not pause long enough at any spot to get the right answer.”
-W. Edwards Deming, “Out of the Crisis
In the last manufacturing company I worked for, one of the production managers was very proud of how he would start each day by flying through and shaking hands with each of his employees. I guess this was well intended, but he was always in such a rush, he never paused in one spot very long. This was classic MBWA. He had about 30 employees to greet. This company had stripped out a layer of supervisors in the misguided idea that they were “non value added.” This poor guy couldn’t manage 30 people effectively, no matter how hard he tried. That wasn’t his fault. It was a structural problem.
In their attempts to “be Lean,” I guess they never studied the Toyota model where there’s a working team leader for every 5 to 8 employees and a group leader for every few team leaders. They had stripped out the team leader type level, so of course things weren’t managed properly and there wasn’t any continuous improvement, other than the changes I could push as an internal Lean person. This was a bad model and I was glad I got out of that company.
As Lean spreads in healthcare, be careful to practice “gemba walks,” not “management by walking around.” Study the Toyota model. Read Norman Bodek’s article. Read Quint Studer’s work on “rounding for outcomes” (a great thing to read whether you are in healthcare or not). Studer emphasizes stopping to truly ENGAGE with employees, not just slapping them on the back. Bonus – read Jamie Flinchbaugh’s IndustryWeek piece on effective gemba walks.
What are your lessons learned about effective gemba walks? What would you hope your organization’s leaders do to make a gemba walk an effective exercise… not just calorie-burning exercise?
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