Monday, December 29, 2003

Five Minds of a Manager, Part 4

I hope I'm not boring you with my continued comments on the most excellent article from the November issue of Harvard Business Review by Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg (click for a free summary or to download for $7, if you don't have the article). But it is very helpful to me to write about it. So, hang on!

The authors third aspect of managing was refreshing to me. They call it Managing Context: The Worldly Mind-Set. What on earth is this? A suggestion that the next business seminar should be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras??

Quite simply, the worldly mindset implores managers to make decisions looking hard that the "world" in which the decisions will be implemented. The authors write extensively for the multi-national corporation, with examples of cultures, governments, ecologies in far-off places. Probably true, I just don't know much about that.

However, this "mindset" is clearly something a Lean manager should address, at either the micro or macro level. Lean managers have known for a long time to physically get to gemba, the workplace. This is why daily meetings take place in the work area. This is why blitzes or kaizens take place on the shop floor. This is why a value stream map should be drawn in the work place, not in an office. This is why visual measurements are very clear right where people work.

In a sidebar, the authors summarize this mindset:

What matters is attention paid to particular responses to specific conditions.
Here's our old friend, the concept of "attention". They set this attention to specifics against the trend of generalizations about markets, values and practices.

I recall reading in the early 80s a business magazine marveling at how Canon had taken over such a huge market share in cameras at the time. The authors described, with apparent horror, Canon's technique. They would send an experienced manager or engineer to spend five days in a real camera store, behind the counter, talking to real customers. They found that a small handful to people spending a small amount of time in real contact with real customers gave them more market insight than processed data from focus groups. Is this "worldly"? Is this understanding context? Is this paying attention? I think so.

I'm asking myself (and thus encourage you to do the same) "OK, Joe, how do you get closer to the target of the impact of decisions?" Often, it is no more complicated than physically getting to the scene of the action. But that is usually preceded by an intention. I challenge myself to make that intention practical, more often.

I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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