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If you wait for people to come to you, you’ll only get small problems. You must go and find them. The big problems are where people don’t realize they have one in the first place – Albert Einstein.

Seeing is believing.  It is believed to have been first practiced by Hewlett Packard in 1973, it was1978 when Tom Peters first heard of Management by Walking around, he called it “the technology of the obvious”.  What a delicious description, we have all worked for those that have been careful to leave their desks. It’s hard to see what is going on and to create a relationship through email.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. John le Carre

Typically, an unstructured process, managers and leaders spend a significant amount of their time making informal visits to work area and listening to the employees. It helps build trusting relationships, understanding and mutual respect in organization. When working with national and international teams, distribution partnerships.  I have travelled a lot to spend time with them, their team and their clients. It can be motivating, showing care through relevant questions and sharing.

Encouraging them, being less formal, creating and sustaining understanding and relationships. To see how work gets done. It is especially helpful when an organisation is under exceptional stress; for instance, after a transformation project has been announced or when a takeover is about to take place. It is suggested that for it to be effective, it is best that it is in play before the stress arises.

As leaders and managers wander about, three things can at least happen. What people are saying. Sharing information, talking about values face to face. The opportunity to give people on-the-spot help.

You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to be there. Tom Peters

W. Edwards Deming, who once wrote: “If you wait for people to come to you, you’ll only get small problems. You must go and find them. The big problems are where people don’t realise they have one in the first place.”

Sam Walton, the founder of the largest company in the world, Walmart, was a great exponent of this practice.

Viewed through the lens of 2020 and social distancing, it is interesting to consider how we do this with the rules that guide us and our return to the workplace, with the closure of borders and the lack of flights. Our people and our business partners still expect that we care and will want to know what is happening. Perhaps with smartphones there could be a solution, we associates on site, taking us for a video walk?

Photo credit Mimi Thian Unsplash

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