For those of you that started reading this blog after my initial post, you may be wondering why I use the title “Management by Walking Around” for a blog about performance management. Some snapshots from that initial post:
For Hewlett and Packard, managing by walking around was a way to get everyone on the same page; what they believed was the secret to their success. As Packard wrote in The HP Way, “It is necessary that people work together in unison toward common objectives and avoid working at cross purposes at all levels if the ultimate in efficiency and achievement is to be obtained.”
Manage by walking around worked well when companies tended to be centralized in one campus-style environment. Unfortunately, modern organizations have become decentralized with multiple locations, often spread throughout the world.
The goal of this blog is to comment on the market for product and services that help organizations achieve alignment and highlight specific cases in which organizations have been successful in increasing their performance by getting people on the same page. I’d like us to rededicate ourselves to the original intentions of “managing by walking around.”
Essentially, my belief is that technology can help individual contributors better understand strategy and can provide real-word feedback to executives. With improved alignment comes improved performance. While technology is not a substitute for managing by walking around, it can amplify the affects.
Given this, I was interested to read an article called “Revisiting Management By Walking Around” which recently appeared in Furniture World. (Don’t ask.) The author claims that, despite the rise of Internet shopping, management by walking around is still relevant for retail furniture stores. As an example, he points out that management can choose to mimic the shopping experience of a prospective customer by visiting the Web site and trying to find/buy a product.
A similar notion applies to virtually all parts of an enterprise. Every executive should call their own customer support line a few times per year to understand what their customers are experiencing. I like to call the main switchboard of companies and ask for sales; you’d be surprised how often I get forwarded to a voice mail box. Imagine: Someone who specifically asks for sales has to wait to get their question answered.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that all of these examples of “walking around” can be done from the comfort of the executive office in just a few minutes. The busy executive has little excuse. If you want to improve performance, walk a mile in your customers’ shoes – even if that walking actually doesn’t require you to leave your desk.