Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

Going walkabout

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“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 […]


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


    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 […]


  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 […]


  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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