It is all too easy for executives and managers to become isolated in an information silo within their company. Today, waiting for information to slowly filter through the chain of command is inefficient, can produce inaccurate intelligence and lead to poor decision making. To make good, informed decisions, leaders need to know what is happening on the frontlines of their business. The best way to gather actionable information is to observe directly and hear first-hand from staff and team members as well as customers.
Leadership rounds are scheduled, structured activities in which executive, managers and even board members purposefully walk through their organizations talking to staff members and customers while gathering actionable and real-time data.
Leadership rounding is an important tool that has been used by high reliability organizations to create superior levels of predictable, repeatable business processes. They are valuable as an ongoing part of an organizational-wide initiative to improve safety, quality and customer service.
Rounds can be performed by leaders in any area of the organization and at any level of leadership. They can be done individually or by a group of executives. They can be general in scope and designed to provide insight on any topic or practice that is observed, or they can be very directed, such as a round to observe compliance with the organization’s safety control procedures. As a best practice, rounds should be a permanent and regularly-scheduled part of a leader’s daily routine.
LEADERSHIP ROUNDING GOALS:
- Increasing understanding on the part of leadership for what is happening at the service delivery level.
- Raising the visibility and engagement of a leadership team.
- Promoting increased levels of teamwork and communication by transforming the entire organization into a team that works well together and is motivated to achieve the same goals.
- Improving leadership through the insight they provide to the leaders, and demonstrating the leaders’ interest in understanding the challenges faced by staff.
LEADERSHIP ROUNDING BENEFITS:
- Trust and Credibility:
- Rounding builds increased levels of trust by demonstrating to staff and customers that the organization’s leaders are interested in the day-to-day processes and quality of the work being performed. Further, they indicate that the leadership’s decisions are grounded in reality. They also allow staff members to get to know and build relationships with leaders, and help leaders understand what’s really important to staff members.
- Process Improvement:
- The first-hand knowledge gathered through the rounding process provides invaluable opportunities to monitor, identify and make and improvements. Being on the front line, talking to staff and customers, also puts leaders in a position to hear ideas for improvements that may not filter up to them otherwise. Rounding provides the opportunity for leaders to observe whether internal monitoring and data collection systems are working and whether the conclusions they are drawing from the information are accurate. Rounding also allows leaders to look across departments and spot duplication, inefficiencies, problems and opportunities.
- Rounding facilitates two- way communication between leaders and staff as well as leaders and customers. Leaders can personally reinforce strategic messages, explain what’s behind decisions and procedures, and see for themselves what is being understood or what might be misinterpreted (albeit well intentioned). It also allows staff to communicate in ways that might otherwise be impossible due to management layers, organizational structure, silos and other barriers to communication. Rounding focused on a particular program or need allows leaders to go right to the source to explain ideas and rationale, and even demonstrate how processes and procedures were designed to work.
- Grounded in Reality:
- In spite of best efforts and good intentions, it’s nearly impossible to know what’s really happening on the front line without first-hand observations. By spending time on the ground floor, leaders can ensure that they know what’s real and what’s not real in their organization, and weigh their options on reality rather than on often inadvertent fictional interpretations of how things are working. Quite often managers will sugar-coat problems in an interest to hide them. Rounding allows leaders to spot problems early on and move quickly to fix them before they grow into major issues with harmful, organizational-wide consequences. It also provides a direct link to customers. Leaders may discover that customers don’t care about major initiatives or strategies, but that seemingly minor and over- looked issues cause customers the greatest problem or inconvenience – especially in the service industry.
- Rounding can energize an organization by connecting the passion and compassion of leaders and staff. Leaders come away with a renewed appreciation for the quality and commitment of their staff and spot “wins” that can be shared with others through recognition and rewards. Furthermore, staff can witness first-hand the human, caring dedication of the organization’s leadership in ways that can only happen when people interact spontaneously in a shared spirit of open and honest communication and teamwork.