The Office Tour

Whenever I visit somewhere new I am always given a tour of the offices.  I am not entirely sure why.  I have been in offices in Manchester, London, Glasgow and Swansea and they all look the same.

More to the point I have been to Bangalore, Washington, Rotterdam and Sydney and to be honest they don’t look a lot different either.  They all have desks, computers, phones, chairs, pot plants and water fountains.

Office tours are high on my list of the most boring ways to spend a couple of hours.

I have also been shown around a number of factories.

Factories are a different thing all together, you can see what is going on, you can see what is being made, how fast things are happening, where the backlogs are, where things are broken.  Factories are a lot more interesting.

But there is more to it than that.  Because it is clear what is going on, it is also clear what needs attention.  It is very difficult to hide a pile of scrap bicycles or sweets or computers.

If you could make your office as obvious as a factory what would the impact on your service and profitability be?

Could you make it obvious:

Here is the challenge:

How do you know things running smoothly?

Can you and everybody else see it?

Is it absolutely crystal clear?

Blindingly obvious?

If the answer is no how about starting with some thought, a notice board, and a daily pull up meeting?  It is amazing how much clearer; more engaging and productive you can make things.

And I might even come and visit and see what is going on.

Office Tour
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Image by Silly Jilly


  1. Hello James

    When my boys were around 5 and 3 I took them to the office as they were always asking me what work I did. So after about two minutes of looking around the boys asked me what work I did and where I worked. When I showed them the desk, the chair and the computer – the boys looked confused. They could not see any work – so I totally get your point.

    In our office we do not make the hidden, taken for granted, obvious by using visual displays and feedback mechanisms that feed the displays. And of course you can only measure how you are doing if you have set some kind of standard and displayed that as well. Yet that is not enough – when there is a gap we should spell out:
    – Our plan of action for closing that gap
    – When we expect to close that gap
    – Our assumptions; and
    – What we will do if our assumptions are incorrect and our plan is not working.

    Then again, who has the confidence to spell that out! Who likes to look the fool?


    • James Lawther says:

      I like your point about assumptions Maz, well made

      The interesting thing about looking the fool is those who are prepared to look it rarely do.

      Thanks for your comments

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