'Go see'

Very often we find ourselves sitting behind out computer screen looking at reports and data discussing challenges and problems in meeting rooms and offering opinions about what is happening with the work and what should be done.  But how often have we been to where the action is and if we did go, did we really look, listen and learn?

This technique is all about going to where the work happens to observe and collect the facts about what is, or is not, happening.  It can be summed up simply as:

  • Go to the actual workplace
  • Look at the actual process
  • Observe what is actually happening
  • Enquire of the people who actually do the work
  • Collect the actual data

A lot of the time we can’t ‘see’ the process but we can learn to see it through asking the right questions (as well as using tools like process mapping). This is all about using your curious mind-set and the persistent use of Kipling’s ‘six honest serving men’:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who

‘Going to see’ at the place where the work happens can support and / or be supported by other sources of data; they are both important, but in the same way as looking at an Ordnance Survey map won’t tell you what the terrain is actually like (it will give you a clue), data from reporting systems won’t tell you what things are like in the workplace. Who knows what cumbersome systems and processes might be in place to generate the nice neat numbers in an Excel spreadsheet?