Strolling Along Cubicle Avenue
You need to get out more—maybe even just a few floors below your office for a nice long, leisurely walk, say Annie Stevens and Greg Gostanian, managing partners of outplacement and executive coaching company ClearRock.
In a thriving economy, a decades-old management technique called Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is an excellent way to get feedback and ideas for improvement from employees. And in a slow economy, this process can mean the difference between profit and loss—maybe even survival.
The concept of "management by walking around," they explain, has been around a long time, tracing its origins to the 1940s when it was developed by Bill Hewlett and David Packard, founders of Hewlett Packard. The management practice came back into popularity in the 1980s after being included in Tom Peters' book, "In Search of Excellence."
"However, with advancements in electronic communication such as e-mail and company intranets, and the development of more modern management techniques," Stevens notes, "MBWA has fallen out of favor somewhat."
So, now is the perfect time to pick it up again. Stevens and Gostanian offer a couple of pointers. First, prepare for dissonance. "If the purpose of conducting MBWA is only to reinforce your current beliefs, you should save everyone's time, and don't do it, says Stevens."The goal should be to uncover honest and objective contributions from people you manage without them feeling they need to tell you only what you want to hear." Second, don't outsource the job. "Don't bring a group of assistants or aides with you," says Gostanian. "Talk with each employee on a one-on-one basis. This will encourage the m ost forthright contributions without intimidating contributors."