Walk Plan

The first time one of my coaches asked me if I had a Walk plan, I quickly answered “Yes”, assuming what he asked was Work plan. He repeated the question, this time clarifying that he did not mean a Work plan but a Walk plan. I was taken off guard. It was basically the first time in a long while that I was jolted into consciously thinking about how I walk around my work area.

Most of what is required in shop floor excellence is shop floor presence. A walk plan has helped in no small way in ensuring there is a conscious decision on where I want to go, why I want to be there, who I want to talk to, what I want to check, when I plan on being there and how I assess impact.

Like most planning, designing a walk plan sounded pretty easy, until I actually started. I realized that even though I have never been distant from the shop floor, putting a plan for being there on paper was quite a bore.

It starts with mapping out the mandatory meetings you must be in. Plug them into your calendar, with the maximum time you are typically in such meetings, while maintaining sanity. (In another article, I will write about tips to effectively manage long meetings you are not in control of, but for now, note that if you hate how long a meeting takes, volunteer to take the minutes. You can control a lot by taking the minutes of meetings. Like I said, let us talk about this another day).

Next, block lunch time. Never pass up on an opportunity to refuel, while hearing the gist of your workplace.

Then block the times you choose to reply all the important people that always require urgent replies. Side note: If something is really urgent, they will call. However, there are important people that expect you to be waiting on your email for notifications and automaton replies. The number of important people reduce as you grow. Focus on growing, do not complain.

I typically set 3 time slots for emails – the unproductive hours of the morning, after lunch and at the end of my day. Other times, I treat emails as the distraction that they are and I am conscious of how they can steal your day and sometimes, your joy.

Finally, every other time on your schedule is available for your shop floor dance. Fill in all areas you will like to be and set aside time to reflect on your observations after each visit. At the start, time will be your biggest constraint, but as you progress with execution, time will seem to expand.

In your walk, pay close attention to -
  1. The people you meet: Smile, shake their hands (especially the dirty hands), look into their eyes, ask “how are you?”, do not take “fine” as an answer, ask “what is better about today that makes them fine?”, probe. At the end of your checks, thank them, shake hands again, and never forget to smile. Remember, you are there to help, not to blame. The people in any area are actually your best measure of the impact of your walk, not improved housekeeping.
  2. Less traffic areas: If fewer people go there, the chances are, there is a lot more to improve there and the people in those areas will appreciate it.
  3. Waste areas: You will learn more about the excellence in your operations from your scrap yard, waste bins and waste areas, than from your actual operation areas. Get dirty.
  4. Sight, sound and smell: You have to be present. The walk is not a time to check emails, Whatsapp messages, whose birthday it is on Facebook or what is trending on Twitter. Changes in sight, sound and smell are usually slight and often dismissible. Get uncomfortable with slight changes and make those around you take a second look.
  5. Above and below eye level: Look up, bend down. There are always surprises outside eye level.

A walk plan has helped me on my journey, it might help you, but you will never know if you do not try it.

- Osasu Oviawe

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