Why 'management by flying around' is necessary in a distributed world

You need to get out and visit with your internal and external customers.

Credit: lrargerich via Flickr

You may have heard about MBWA - management by walking around. The theory states that you will know what is happening in your organization if you get out of your office or away from your cubicle and witness firsthand how your people are doing their work. I expect you are doing this around your office already. If not, stop reading, stand up, go visit someone, then come back.

My extension of MBWA is what I think of as MBFA - management by flying around. If you are managing a distributed organization, there is no substitute for actually seeing your customers, both internal and external. Technology has come a long way in bridging the distance between people using conference calling, email, screen sharing, and video conferencing, but there is still a missing nuance of being in the same room with someone.

Visit your customers. Talk them through where you see the company going and how you in IT help get it there. Then, listen to them. Listen to what works. Listen to what doesn't work. Listen to what they want from IT. Make the conversation personal. If you listen more than you talk, you'll learn what you can do to do your job better. Make a promise to come back and visit again. Keep that promise. Invite them to visit you and your team. Follow up.

You may say you don't have the time or the budget to visit with your remote customers, and you might not. But what is going to make a bigger impact than being in sync with your customers? What is going to pay back dividends as high as doing the right work for them, not just some work for them?

There was an airline commercial years and years ago in which an old customer fired the company saying that they (the customer) didn't know the company any more. The CEO's reaction, belated or otherwise, was to have everyone in the company fly off to visit their customers. You don't need to wait for the wake-up call of being fired by a customer to schedule a visit.

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