Success By Walking Around

Management By Walking Around

Management by walking around (or wandering around) is a concept that was popularized in the early 1980’s by Tom Peters in his book “In Search of Excellence.” The basic idea is that managers would actually leave the confines of their offices and walk around their departments. That way they would get a better picture of what was going on, who was who, and how the workplace actually worked in daily practice.

They could stop and talk with their employees in a relaxed, casual manner, encouraging more open communication. Setting the stage for discovering problems before they grew large. Giving the employees an opportunity to approach the manager without feeling they were storming a castle by fighting their way through secretaries and assistants to get into his/her office. Letting the employees see the manager was actually working him/herself.

There are many more benefits, but my article today is not about the benefits for management. This is about the benefits any employee can gain from following the same action plan.

Success By Walking Around

Regardless of your job level, you can practice the techniques of management by walking around. Just think about what makes the biggest difference in getting and keeping a job and advancing on the job. It’s communication.

Few people have gotten ahead by staying in their offices or cubicles and simply working and working.

You have to be visible and get credit for your work and contributions to the organization. You have to be seen as a candidate for moving up. Appreciated for leadership qualities. Known to — and liked by — as many people as possible in the organization.

It’s a lot easier than you may think.

Strategies You Can Use Right Away

For the ordinary non-managing employee — or low level managers with very few employees — success by walking around can be achieved by a few simple strategies. These strategies get you out from behind your computer, your phone and inter-office mail. They get you face to face with people at every level who can help you get ahead. Who will want to help you get ahead. Here’s a list of five great strategies to get you started. Maybe you can think of some more.

1. Hand deliver your work — in physical form, when possible. Don’t just send email attachments or pdfs. People who see you delivering the work associate your face with the work. They get to ask you questions. They get to feel that you have a personal interest in your work and in them. This works well for the same reasons that sending physical greeting cards gets a better — far better — response than e-cards. That which is tangible seems more real. You seem more real. More memorable.

2. Stop playing telephone tag. Stop replying by email and text messages. On important issues, go see the person who left the message, with a written reply in hand — and discuss the issues involved. For all the same reasons as #1 above.

3. Offer assistance to colleagues who look overwhelmed. The old adage “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” is true. Favors with no strings attached makes friends fast and endear you to both the person you helped and anyone else who finds out about them. Especially if you are very humble about it and make no fuss about it yourself.

4. Send personalized, attractive email within the office — when it looks like you’ve taken time and consideration in the message interface, you can make the message shorter and you’ll still be seen as attentive (another way of putting it is that if you are attentive to detail, you will be seen as attentive in every way — that’s the psychology of generalization.)

5. Get involved with company extra curricular activities — write a department newsletter, attend company sports team events and cheer for your team, participate in charity events. anything that shows enthusiasm for the company. Social involvement is social proof of value.

Do these techniques take time? Of course they do. But they are some great uses of that time and will pay off in greater benefits than alternate uses of your time. You can never be productive enough to make yourself well-known and liked. Performance and productivity are essential to doing and keeping your job. But it’s your visibility and likeableness that help you succeed.

Article Recommendations

If you want to read more about management by walking around, here are some good articles.

From The Economist: Management By Walking About
From IT Managers Inbox: Management By Walking Around MBWA
From Are You Walking Around for the Right Reasons?

You might also be interested in hearing Tom Peters explain how he discovered the concept of management by walking around. Here’s a video.