Manage by Walking Around

“You’re the only guy up there in that computer palace that ever comes down here on the shop floor to see what’s really going on and what we really do. All the others up there just tell us what they want us to do.”

- Anonymous Machinist at the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company

My door is always open is a great idea, but you need to get out on the “floor” and talk with your Teamers. You need to focus on managing people not things BUT also focus on getting and using things to help your people and make their lives better.

The quote above came from an old crotchety machinist that I worked with at the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company, at that time the largest machine tool manufacturer in the world. I was a computer programmer working on a bill of material/parts explosion system. The customer would order machine tool number whatever and the system was to identify all the needed “parts” (down to screws, bolts and nuts!!) that needed to be built, with all of the appropriate lead times and shop floor locations to maximize and speed up the assembly of the machine tool. It took over two years to build some of these machine tools! This machinist told me straight away one day, “Those computer wizards up there don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground! I build these tools with these cards!” And he reached into his shirt pocket for a stack of worn 3 x 5 index cards about an inch thick with an old rubber band holding them together.

“Are you serious?” I asked him. And he responded “see that’s the difference between you and those other computer wizards. At least you ask questions and listen.”

This event provided me with a lasting insight that I always needed to be out on the “floor” talking with and listening to everyone; my Teamers (and Co-Workers too) looking for problems and potential solutions. Perhaps it was new software, a change in your processes, or perhaps your policies that can make things work better.

I always had a project status meeting every week; always on the same day and at the same time (again habit forming for all). Project status information is critical to everyone. Teamers could come and go as they needed based upon our predetermined meeting project agenda, but you had to be there when your project came up.

I also had staff meetings when needed. I had more impromptu staff meetings than regularly scheduled ones. Some new information would come my way and I would get everyone together (with the help of Teamer Carolyn!) with a walk around verbal announcement of “let’s get together in 10 minutes in conference room 3.” I always wanted to tell them now rather than let the rumors start. I also used impromptu meetings for service awards and other special recognitions of my Teamers.

Always try to escape from your computer and telephone and get out of your work space and walk around and talk with your Teamers as often as possible. This informal interaction will improve the overall communications and trust between you and your Teamers immediately. This is a must do NOW!

Lastly, every payday I always walked around and handed out the pay checks to all of my Teamers with a personal “thank you!” to each of them. Make sure that you spend time with each Teamer, as often as possible aside from One-on-One sessions. Get out there!!! 

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

- Maya Angelou