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Move Your Feet

The advice to walk around in the organization is often presented under the Japanese name Gemba, which says that one ought to be there where people are working, in order to understand how well they can do their jobs and what they need from you. But you also do it to help solve any problems people might have, using facts and not assumptions.

Other names you may find in literature are Genchi Genbutsu, Go and See, Face-time, and Management By Walking Around. And, in the case of distributed teams, this could easily become Management By Flying Around (MBFA). The practice has more names than His Majesty King Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, etc. etc. Therefore you can assume it is pretty important.

Make face-to-face employee contact part of everyday life in your office. The Australian term for it is ‘going walkabout’; many business management consultants call it ‘management by walking around’. Whatever you call it, it works, and if you and your senior staff aren’t doing it, you are missing out on one of the most inexpensive and effective management tools around.

- Richard Branson, Like a Virgin

Some experts suggest that, when moving around the people that are important to you, you should not follow a strict schedule, but you should try and do this randomly. You listen to them, talk to them, consult them, and advise them. At random moments you may decide to attend a team’s planning meeting, stand-up meeting, or demo meeting, or you may catch them near the water cooler. It is important that you do not give the impression you are checking on them, because your aim is better communication and understanding, not better instruction. It’s about managing, not programming. And face-time doesn’t have to focus on just work. Social time (during lunch breaks, near the coffee machine, and after work hours) counts as well.

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