Very few managers have their desks right out in gemba—the workplace they manage. It is unfortunate, as being right where the action is provides a tremendous value.
Managers absorb a better understanding of the process.
Managers become more accessible to their teams.
Managers see problems as they are happening.
Managers learn about the ‘flow of the workflow’. (I know it sounds strange, but workdays often have a rhythm to them. The pace and problems follow a pattern.)
Now, a rookie mistake is to simply hear ‘go to gemba’ and think that it will immediately provide insight into an operation. While it is certainly easier to see things from the actual place work is being done than from an office, it is not magic. A manager still has to become a student of continuous improvement and problem solving to truly reap the benefits of being so close to the team.
But learning has to start somewhere, so I challenge you to do what I did as a manager. Move your workspace to where you can observe your team. Whether you manage a group on the shop floor or an office team, join them. Set up a workspace for yourself right near the process you manage. Get a privacy screen for your monitor. Use a conference room or transient office for private calls or meetings.
Sure, there are some inconveniences, but you’ll get used to them in a hurry, and become a much better boss as well. If the floor is noisy, get earplugs. If the work area is too dark, get a desk lamp. Overcome the obstacles with creative thought.
I encourage you to try moving for a week, and then comment below to tell us about your experiences. Don’t think about it. Just try it. It’s only five days. I’m betting you’ll be glad you did.