I was very interested to read Stephen Crate’s recent post with Jim Womack’s “Historical Perspective of Lean,” which mentioned the idea of gemba consciousness, or awareness of what’s actually happening on the shop floor. “Management by walking around” is related to this concept; at one organization that I know of, meetings were forbidden before 10 am so the supervisors and managers could spend the time in their departments.

However, there’s a relationship here to span of control. At one of the organizations I have worked at, it was not uncommon for Nurse Managers to have over 50 direct reports on all shifts. One lab manager had over 100 direct reports, at over 30 locations. In the organization’s zeal to flatten the management structure, they had made it difficult – if not impossible – to manage by walking around.

I’m attending some meetings in the coming weeks that will focus on Nursing span of control, so we will try to bring together the concepts of a flat org structure and gemba consciousness. If any of you would like to share your thoughts on this issue, I would love to learn from you.

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