Are you familiar with the comics’ hero “Invisible Man”?
The more invisible he is, the more powerful he appears to be – as well as the perception around him.
“He can appear at any moment” – people would whisper, carefully looking around. He is the (hidden) authority that everyone respects.
A fair share of management appears to be like hero(s) – perhaps visible to their peers and superiors, present in difficult situations/escalations, solving problems and… quite distant and invisible to the people they lead. Since managers determine people’s salaries, they are respected and represent the formal authority to make decisions. Their absence from the place where daily work is done seems to emphasize their just described reputation. This is a bit of an issue for a manager – how to keep authority and respect by being visible?
Once a manager is there, attends daily team’s stand-up meetings, hears what people say, what impediments they have, she/he could take those moments to understand better and find out how to add value.
There are few additional reasons why a manager needs to be at gemba (the real place – where work is done):
- Manager should demonstrate a real interest, thus respect towards the work done by the people she/he leads. That creates mutual understanding and trust.
- It eliminates the need for unnecessary reporting and steering forums being the time eaters and wasters (see the related post about waste).
- Since, teams may be sometimes blind towards own work, managers, which are supposed to be the coaches, are there to help them to discover their blind spots, by finding the root causes for the problems they have.
- Managers should make sure that a new energy is added to the team activities. There is no point to control how teams do the work, but to check how to help out.
The last point is essential. If people closest to the process, which execute value added actions are supervised and told what and how to do the job, then they lose ownership upon the actions and intrinsic motivation to continuously make improvements. The energy, once manager leaves, is simply sucked out, following the law of entropy – gradual decline into the steady, low engagement state.
The managers’ role is to make work easier for the teams, not for themselves. That is true respect. The managers are paid for it, and no one promised them an easy job.
A warmly recommended reading goes to 2 books:
- “GembaWalks” by James P. Womack and John Shook
- “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership” by Jeffrey K. Liker and Gary L. Convis
I would appreciate to share a piece of your experience by commenting to this blog!