Field presence aka Visible Felt Leadership aka Supervision

There is no substitute for managers and supervisors being active in the workplace.

Here’s an interesting little story from the BBC website about how deploying officers at accident blackspots has reduced the number of accidents and incidents.

Following six deaths in two weeks the Metropolitan Police placed officers at 166 blackspots during rush hour and saw an improvement in safe behaviours of both drivers and cyclists with a reduction in incidents.  They plan to do it again.

Over the pre-Christmas period I ventured by car into Newcastle city centre.  The police there were manning the yellow box junctions and, strangely enough, no-one broke the rules with an even stranger result, the traffic flowed freely and there were no road rage incidents.

So, just by being in the right place and supervising the activities there was, in both cases, improved safety and performance.

For me this is the basis of both Behavioural Safety Observations and Competence Assurance, two current hot topics.  Having managers and supervisors in the field regularly helps to promote safety, to determine individual and organisational competence, and builds trust between management and front line personnel.  So why do so few people do this?  “Because I’m tied to a computer”, “because it’s easier for me to do the task than to develop others” or “I just don’t have the time” – all unacceptable answers in my opinion.

Get out and about in your workplace, see what conditions your people have to work in, identify the things that get in the way of efficiency, discover the great people out there who just want to do a good job (and what you can do to support them making the improvements, not you), develop those who are not quite at their peak and reap the benefits of that engagement in improved safety and productivity.

You know it makes sense, just look at the Metropolitan Police, they know and that’s why they are repeating the exercise.

Image credit: Tommy Franklin via flickr

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About the author

Dave Dyer

Dave Dyer is a principal consultant within the Operations Improvement team in ABB Consulting. His speciality is in bringing sustainable change and operational benefits to an organisation through the engagement of its people. He hopes to share good ideas and good practice, to inform and to learn.
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