Mining People Matters

Steve Heather

Steve Heather, Managing Director and Co-founder of Mining People International (MPi).

What a difference a day makes ...and why you should study an MB(w)A

What a difference a day makes ...and why you should study an MB(w)A

What a difference a day makes ...and why you should study an MB(w)A

The general theme of this article is about being present and in the moment.

This requires us to avoid the temptation to be constantly connected with communications devices , constantly returning messages and constantly diverting your eyes to those lights flashing away on your smart phone that you placed on a table at the beginning of a meeting.

I read an article somewhere recently which was one of those interviews with a busy mining executive who described his most valuable management education as something he had copied from a mentor years before.

The course as he described it was an MBA, but with a small twist, an MB(w)A;

 “Management by (walking) Around”.

I don’t think there would be too many modern managers that would not recognise the value of simply walking around the mine or  processing plant, gauging where people are at, by observing key indicators of the overall “tone” of a workplace. Things like:

  •  The language people use. Is it loaded with cynicism or not?
  • Is there a general sense of Optimism when talking about problems?
  • How often is “WE” used as opposed to “I”, “ME” and “They”? When people talk about their work, constant use of the remote “them” or “they” is often a sign that the person does not see themselves as part of the business team, but rather divorced from it.
  • Observing practical expressions of workplace attitude includes things like general cleanliness levels and simply how organised things are, or are not.
  • Do people turn up on time for toolbox meetings, or is everyone rushing in the door at the last minute, harried and with a general sense of stress surrounding everyone?

Management By Walking Around will reveal these things – but not to all managers!

So what a difference a day makes.

Day # 1:

IS enacted by Boss # 1 who spends the first hour of his day walking around the plant speaking with different people each day on a regular roster from Monday to Friday.

He takes the Smartphone along and spends much of the tour making and receiving phone calls from head office. This is important so as to get maximum efficiency out of the hour.

He attends a different toolbox meeting daily on a structured roster and always turns up early. This ensures that all staff turn up on time that day, whether this is normal or not.

He walks around with a supervisor by his side. This is more efficient as problems noticed can be recorded by the supervisor who can then get them fixed.

The conversations are relatively structured because staff have had time to prepare.

Because staff know the tour roster and know that the plant supervisor will be with the boss, everyone assumes these rituals are Inspection Tours.

Boss #1 ensures that everything is communicated through the supervisor and as a result misses many of the important personal stories. Being on and off the phone and reading emails, he wasn’t really paying attention to the subtle clues. The staff also get a sense that he is SO busy, that they don’t dare waste time on personal stories.

Boss # 1 sees a lot of things but misses ALL the subtleties. He hears the words said, but misses the “tone” of communications. He builds very few personal relationships and they’re certainly not deep.

Boss # 1 is practising MB(W)A but is missing up to 75% of the real benefits of this time.

 

Day # 2:

Is practised by a different boss, but who also starts her day with an hour walking around the plant.  She speaks with whomever crosses her path, she sits in on one toolbox meeting each day, but non one ever knows which one it will be. She participates as any other participant and leaves the “company” line at the door. She leaves only when the meeting ends.

She Leaves her Smartphone back at her desk for that hour and is never interrupted when in the meetings and when speaking with staff.

The walk is never structured, it goes wherever it goes, somewhere different each day depending upon what is happening on the day.

There is never a supervisor with her, she see things unfiltered, and she doesn’t want the walk to have a sense of “inspection tour” about it.

She communicates directly with supervisors, cleaners and process operators.

Boss 2 is not just present, she participates, she is not Inspecting, she is influencing, she does not just see things, she senses the spirit of the plant.

She leaves the 2-3 people that she touches each day with an honest snapshot of her, not of the company and there is a direct personal connection made. As a result she is able to influence people directly, as opposed to simply inspecting and directing.

People feel they know HER and as a result when problems occur later, she can influence solutions. People are more motivated because they feel cared for, listened to and generally appreciated.

 

What a difference a day makes…….