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Topics: Talent Management
Proximity Management - Good or Bad?

In this setting, employees work with their managers, and managers of managers, on the same level. The proximity is supposed to enhance the collaboration, decision making and thus lead to enhanced efficiency and productivity.

In an informal chat, an employee of a big company informed that this setting killed communication and collaboration of their team. It was not possible to shout across cubicles when you know a senior manager is sitting in a cubicle. Employees were more productive when Sr. managers were sitting away from them.

Please share your experiences, if you have any personal or anecdotal.
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It has both positive and negative impact.

The team comes closer to the management, gets opportunity to share thoughts & ideas, communication becomes easy. The team feels it is not singled out.

On the contrary, feeling of being micro managed prevails.

I will try to put this inside a technique to perform elicitation and other type of things which is one of the powerful ones: facilitation workshop. In the same room the best thing you can do with this technique is to have all level employees together including employees belonging to different business units or organizational areas if it is needed. But to use the technique you have to take into acoount a defined process which includes the layout of the room where you will perform the workshop. Inside the layout the place where employees of different levels have to be located or sitted. And in my experience it is true you have to pay closelly attention to that. Key on all of this is to make a good Project Stakeholder analysis and plan. The situation you are describing usually happends when people use an agile method to create something and they do not have to take into account that a previous work has to be made to understand if the organization is ready to do that because this type of situations.

Good or bad depending on the level of intensity and proximity. If you mean 3 levels working together on a regular basis may be too much of a good thing.
I like to exaggerate something and translate to a different field to see the outcome – sometimes it helps to realize something. For instance - to get an impression of such interaction lets translate this to a communication channel (e-mail communication). You can imagine how would it look like if you send all the e-mails to your subordinate team members CC to your senior manager and make others reply this way aswell. In my reality and culture this would mean something is really wrong and it would look like there is a lack of trust. Micromanagement maybe. There may be situations where it comes to use of such means, however doing this on a regular basis wouldn't make sense. Here “proximity” variable has a very high value.
On the other hand you can imagine situation where PM has no contact with higher management whatsoever. PM writes e-mail requests trying to get attention to important matters, and the senior manager is still away making it impossible for the PM to interact and coordinate (assuming such an interaction and coordination would be vital for the sake of the Project success). Here “proximity” variable has a very low value.
On both ends of the projected “proximity” variable range you get poor results. Best results you will probably get somewhere in between. You have to find a golden mean. In this case it would make sense that a senior manager would be accessible, even working close enough to the team, to support the PM with his/her knowledge and experience in areas where such interaction and coordination is necessary. Participation in some workshops, expert judgement may be a good idea. Not too much though - as I suppose.

I think depends of which kind of company we work in. When we use an agile methodology is necessary that everyone work together, including the manager. But I'm really convinced that some high level managers need to keep distance of daily tasks, because their interest is just strategic. This can disturb the job enviroment during the projects.

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