Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

Going walkabout

with 5 comments

“Hey, when are you going to get to your office and do some real work?” jibed Mike, as he spotted me walking past his office.

It was one of those days. I must have walked by his door at least four times that morning and the day was still young. I looked his way, just a tad irritated by his tone. He had his trademark grin on his face. 

“Shouldn’t you be sorting out the problem with the web module instead of tracking me?” I retorted, continuing down the corridor.

He said something in response that I didn’t quite catch.

Despite Mike’s grin, I suspect his question was at least partially serious. So it deserves more than a flippant response.

I do spend a great deal of time away from my desk. Why?

I’ve been practising MBWA or management by wandering (or walking) around. In a nutshell, this means wandering around the office and talking to people to get a feel for how things are going.

My wanderings incorporate regular, informal, face-to-face chats with team members, to get a first hand view of their concerns and problems.  There are innumerable ad-hoc tasks vying for the attention of developers in a corporate environment (2nd/3rd level support issues, just to name one). Talking to individuals regularly let’s me know if there’s something I can do to help them focus on their work. This usually boils down to helping them with non-technical tasks.  Some examples include: prioritization of work; doing some admin tasks on their behalf; helping them negotiate with unreasonable customers from the business; assisting with documentation etc.

Obviously MBWA needs to be done in a non-intrusive way – the last thing one wants to do is to make people feel like they’re being spied on or micromanaged. 

The technique works well with customers (end-users from the business) too. Often, when someone sends me an email requesting assistance from my team, I’ll walk over to their office and have a chat instead of responding by email or phone. Face to face communication is almost always better than a disembodied voice via a telecom device or, even worse, words on a screen.

MBWA is a great way to communicate with your team and your customers. Apart from the immediate benefit of getting a first hand view of people’s problems and needs, it helps build relationships. Which, in the end, is a large part of what management is about.

Written by K

September 25, 2007 at 5:57 am

Posted in People Management

5 Responses

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  1. […] their work. Such behaviour is tantamount to micromanagement which, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, is a definite […]

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  2. […] Original article can be found at https://eight2late.wordpress.com/2007/09/25/going-walkabout// […]

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    PM Hut » Going walkabout

    February 21, 2008 at 10:58 pm

  3. […] knows about it and does it regularly as part of his management style – Kailash Awati’s “Going Walkabout” blog post is spot […]

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  4. […] constructive feedback is an effective motivator. Many also agreed that personal conversations (e.g. Management by Walking Around) is also a useful technique. Respondents also agreed that it was important to develop an […]

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  5. […] me!), unnecessary recurring meetings and pointless written reports. Monitor progress informally ( MBWA works well for me in this regard). Jump in only when asked to do so, or if intervention is […]

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