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Managers should develop a “Let’s Go See” attitude

Jul 04, 2008 Business Daily

“Throughout your career people will approach you with all manner of real-life problems resulting from your work. A wonderfully effective response is to invite them to have a look with you – in other words, “Let’s Go See!” It is seldom adequate to remain at one’s desk and speculate about causes and solutions and hope to sort it all out. Before ever being able to solve a problem, you will need abundant insight, insight that can only be obtained by observing first-hand what might be at once too subtle and complex only to imagine”

W.J. King and James G. Skakaoon, “The Unwritten Laws of Business” (2007)

“The Unwritten Laws of Business” is an odd little book. It was first written in 1949, primarily for an engineering audience. The current authors have updated it and given it a wider scope, to appeal to all those in management.

It contains some gems of wisdom, and “Let’s Go See” is one of them. This phrase recommends that you inculcate the habit of going to see for yourself, rather than waiting for things to be brought to your desk. It points out that management is not the art of arranging one’s posterior behind a desk for the day, using phones, computers and dictation machines as the tools of work. It is a far more active occupation that involves being where the action really is, as often as possible.

How one wishes that Kenyan managers, particularly in the public sector, understood this! For so many seem to imagine that the higher one gets in the echelons of leadership, the more desk-bound one must become. Interacting with staff at their workstations, meeting customers, strolling through the shop-floor – all of that is for lowly minions, surely? The boss’s work is different: it involves sitting at an impressive desk in an expansive office making decisions, using data brought to that desk entirely by others! Is it any surprise that so many institutions are in so woeful a state, when ‘hands-on’ management is so rare?

But there is hope. A newer breed of executive is realising that this is no way to run organisations. This more enlightened type of manager says “Let’s Go See!” to most situations, knowing that there is no substitute for direct experience or observation. So rather than read market survey reports to figure out what customers want, this manager goes out to ask them, personally. Rather than accept what the HR manager says about staff motivation, this leader goes out to shoot the breeze with employees every day.

Linus Gitahi, Group CEO of the Nation Media Group, is one such “Let’s Go See!” leader I have come across. He is rarely found behind his desk; you are more likely to see him doing things with his staff, or touring the premises of his key customers and chatting extensively with them. This helps him keep his finger right on the pulse of the subtle currents that affect his complex organisation.

He is not alone. Many more such leaders are emerging, who shed the chains of protocol and hierarchy and realise they are far more effective when they understand the nuances of their organisations – personally.

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