The more I thought about the idea of walking around, the more I got the feeling that the practice is suboptimal. Years ago I realized that the concept of “being there where the work happens” can be taken a step further. I solved it by picking up my stuff to go and sit with my team, at an ordinary desk, just like everyone else. It might have been the best management decision I ever made, vastly increasing the amount of social time I could enjoy with my team members.
Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50% of positive changes in communication patterns.
- Alex Pentland, “The New Science of Building Great Teams”
After I had moved my desk, whatever happened, I was always around. This allowed me to pick up much more of what was going on, and understand much better what other people cared about. They regularly asked for my opinion, when otherwise they only did this when I happened to be walking around. And I picked up signs of joy and frustration, which I wouldn’t have noticed if I had not been there. This convinced me that MBSA (Management by Sitting Around) can sometimes beat both MBWA and MBFA.
Interestingly enough, not everyone is of the same opinion. Richard Branson, the famous founder and chairman of the Virgin Group, has always practiced the opposite approach. He prefers not to sit with his management teams, because in his view this could inhibit their creativity and self-reliance. Instead, he prefers to leave them to their own devices most of the time, but guarantees regular face-time with everyone by flying around all the time.
But of course, that’s easy to do when you have your own airlines.