Management by Walking Around
“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity”
I was recently discussing how the first 6 months of a new job was going with an associate who I had known for many years. This was a senior role which required both senior management experience and technical expertise which was critical to the organisation and its members. The associate was quite happy with their new role, had autonomy and was able to work on projects unhindered. However, they were puzzled that in the head office of about 60 people where they worked they had never seen the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). That’s right, not even physically sighted the CEO, let alone met them.
This seems an extraordinary situation, but it’s true. It would hardly come as a surprise that in the previous 12 month period over 30 new people were employed to replace those who had left. It can be safely assumed that there was something seriously wrong with this organisation, and the statement ‘a fish goes rotten at the head first’ explaining organisational failure would appear true in this case.
Staff look for leadership, not aloofness. Evidence clearly indicates that successful organisations have management teams that are engaged with their customers and staff. One demonstration of this, is the concept ‘management by walking around’. This is not a ‘royal tour’ as experienced in one of my first jobs as a fresh faced junior. At that time I worked for a large multi-national in the steel industry and whenever senior executives were about to ‘tour’ there was a frenzy of painting and clean up, much to the bemusement of staff. The tour was generally a 5 minute walk through accompanied by the plant manager before the entourage moved on to the next plant. Little wonder that the business had to merge later and divest its manufacturing to remain in business. Early on in my career, I developed the practice of ‘walking the floor’ within an hour of arriving at work to talk to staff. It was amazing what an effect it had on morale, as problems were aired and often solved; giving staff a sense of satisfaction in their jobs. It was also another way of providing feedback on performance and hearing about issues with customers and the suppliers. People like nothing better than being asked for their opinions in a considered and professional manner.
My suggestion is that if you are not managing by walking around then plan to start this as soon as you can. It will work wonders, make your job easier and help with workforce engagement and increase profits! However, ensure that you are genuine in your approach. Your workforce will pick up fake concern and self-serving behaviour immediately. I can recall another CEO in a much smaller organisation who would stroll through the workplace, stopping and asking a plant operator the name of the person who they to next visit, then walking up to that person and saying ‘hello Mary’ as if they were some long lost friend, but not engaging in any meaningful dialogue before rushing off to the next person. You can imagine how he was viewed by staff and it later became a game to give him the wrong name and see what the reaction was!
Management by walking around makes great sense and makes for a better workplace providing it is done sincerely, in a considered and professional manner. So if you are not doing this, the best time to start is now…………………………