energizing breakthrough performance

Sasquatch, Santa, and Phantom Supervision

Author: ; Published: Mar 6, 2013; Category: Customer Service, Mentoring, Uncategorized; Tags: None; No Comments»

It was mid-December and Shirley was clearly excited.  She breathlessly exclaimed to her co-worker Antonio, “There’s been a sighting!”


 “Really!? Get out of town! A real-deal sighting!?” Did he show up as Sasquatch or Santa this time?” Antonio inquired. 


“I’m not sure,” Shirley replied.  “I just heard it from Carmelita.”


These front-line employees were referring to a rare Brigadoon-like  moment when the fog cleared and their supervisor was seen to walk among them..  Phantom Supervision had abated temporarily in that brief instant.  Rumors abounded that there had been person-to-person interaction between a member of management and the employees on the floor..


However, despite his racing heart rate, Antonio’s inquiring mind still wanted to know: Was it Sasquatch or Santa?  A “Sasquatch Sighting” of a supervisor on the floor occurs rarely and  randomly. You are so stunned that you don’t know what to say and you forget to pull out your Smartphone camera in time.


A “Santa Sighting” happens at more predictable times.  It being December, Antonio speculated that the sighting might be event-driven somehow,  perhaps occasioned by the holiday season. 


Some thirty years ago, Peters and Waterman popularized Management By Walking Around  (MBWA) in their book In Search of Excellence. (1982).  MBWA had been a key to the early success of Hewlett-Packard during the 1970s.  Abraham Lincoln is said to have been the first practitioner of MBWA during the Civil War when he would informally inspect Union troops and engage them in conversation. 


MBWA delivers important benefits to the supervisor, the employee, and the organization.  Employees begin to believe that the supervisor is paying attention and that there might just be a solid, objective basis for their performance appraisals.  The organization begins to close the gap between management and employees, creating a “one-team” organization rather than having a “management team” and an “employee team.”  Supervisors gain first-hand insights into what’s working and what’s not working; they can answer factually senior management’s questions about what needs to be  stopped, started  and/or continued.  The list of benefits goes on but the salutary effects on job satisfaction, morale and correlated productivity and effectiveness are significant.  That said, in some organizations, the absence of MBWA suggests that the benefits are not obvious and that management’s time can be put to much higher and better use, day after day, month after month…


What happened to MBWA?  Where did it go?  Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Only the Phantom knows.


Did supervisory management morph into a group of e-mail operators, transfixed by their screens?  Did management circle the wagons, only keeping company with “our own kind?”  Did supervisors decide that walking among the employees could expose them to questions to which they do not have an immediate answer?  (What a frightening and heartbreaking development that would be!)


Stated differently, is the decline and fall of MBWA a technological development; a cultural development; a lack of  basic supervisory training and coaching; or a lack of senior management emphasis on its importance?  Is it fear of being criticized by senior management  for disturbing throughput and employee productivity?  Is it fear of being seen as “fraternizing” with the employees?  Is it all of the above?  Is it none of the above?  Is it something else entirely?


Whatever the source, it’s time to end phantom supervision because it doesn’t cut it.. 


MBWA is not that hard to do if a few pointers are remembered:


n      Try to interact with as many employees as possible on your rounds; make a point of getting to those you did not greet on Round 1 when you do a Round 2 the next time through  (Do MBWA when it is least disruptive to production; if that’s a problem, then go ahead and pitch in to help your team! Or, visit the Employee Break Room instead.  Also challenge yourself to learn a little something about each employee when you make a round)


n      Catch somebody doing something right and help raise the standards and the morale in your enterprise (Make certain it’s meaningfully right; no inflation)


n      Remember that this is not a quiz show and you don’t have to know all answers on the spot, but do get back to the employee who asked the question when you locate the answer.  Don’t take forever to do this.


n      If you see problems, make a mental note and address what you saw at a later time, not during your MBWA tour.


Alas, I must now adjourn to contemplate the Zen management question of the day: When is supervision not supervision? I shall approach this contemplation first from the Sasquatch perspective and then from the Santa perspective.. On second thought, it makes me tired to think about it so I’ll get up and walk around instead.






Share These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Print
  • email
  • blogmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Mixx
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • YahooBuzz