Are You Looking Up & Out, Not Just Down & In?

by | Jan 13, 2010 | Blog | 1 comment

Photo by Ray Dravesky

Photo by Ray Dravesky

From morning to night, if you’re like most workers, you’re looking down and in to do your job.

You need to take a break every now and then to look up and out.

That’s the advice Peter Pande, President of Pivotal Resources, gave a group of process owners a few years ago.

He emphasized that while each process owner needs to know his or her own process inside and out, they also must be knowledgeable about how their process connects with all the other processes in the value stream. The processes must coordinate tightly to create seamless, end-to-end integration. That’s what delivers value to customers.

Pete’s suggestion applies to a multitude of people these days, doing all sorts of jobs. Yet, many seem not only to be looking down and in, but they also have their heads on a constant downward tilt. And while the bowed heads might not initially seem to have an adverse impact on effective LEAN COMMUNICATIONS™ practices, your communications–and customer service–can suffer. For example, consider:

  • The restaurant hostess who acts more interested in texting a message on her iPhone than greeting customers who enter the restaurant.
  • The individuals at bus and train stops who are reading their emails on their cell phones or laptops.
  • The concierge at the hotel who appears engrossed in his thoughts while conducting an online search.

What are they—and you—missing by not looking up and out at their surroundings?

Especially for those in a service role, they are losing out on opportunities to:

1. Make a connection with another person, which could be of mutual benefit.
2. Be available and anticipate needs of a potential customer.
3. Provide service to customers appearing before them.

Even though I enjoy looking up and out, I have to admit I got so engrossed in a couple of projects this past fall that I developed tunnel vision. I neglected to do my regular check-ins with some long-established contacts of mine.

So I was totally surprised—and embarrassed—when I received a holiday card from an individual who wrote that she had left her job three months earlier. I felt like I had fallen asleep at the switch. My behavior wasn’t as bad as texting while driving—as one of my taxicab drivers started to do. But I had missed out on helping her during a transition and providing something of value.

Plus, taking a break to glance around you is healthy. You rest your eyes, relieve stress, and rejuvenate yourself.

Pierre Khawand, the productivity evangelist of People-OntheGo, says distance creates clarity and perspective, which helps us be more productive. I believe this distance also can help us be better LEAN Communicators too.

Are you looking up and out often enough?

And if you’re responsible for leading or managing service workers, are you serving as a proper role model? Are you guiding them to be more observant of customers? Also, are you rewarding them for serving customers as well as taking the long, broad view?

1 Comment

  1. Tim McMahon

    Wow Liz. That is a nice perspective to have. I think we have all been in a situation that was engrossing like that. I am not sure I stopped and looked up and out. Now I understand the importance of pausing to reflect. It can have a powerful refocusing ability.

    Tim McMahon
    A Lean Journey Blog

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