Born in the 1980’s, Management by walking around (MBWA) always seemed to have noble aspirations and feet of clay. I am all in favor of execs and management descending from their office sanctorums to have meaningful bidirectional engagement with their direct reports, customers and such. All too often MBWA has been nothing more than cubicle stalking and making sure that everyone looks busy. While discussing a client research project on enterprise tools providing management insight into hybrid employee utilization a friend laughed and proclaimed, “Covid killed MBWA!” Indeed, the rapid shift to hybrid/#WFH for digital professionals has left many middle managers disconnected from their teams. The resulting insecurity has driven many to double down on ‘Teams’ meetings, adding to employee #Technostress and digital overload. Management’s lack of visibility into utilization, achievements, failures and overall engagement with employees is a real issue, especially when your best producers are headed for burnout. Everyone wants their boss to see how busy they are and justify their role. Few employees are happy with a net nanny reports telling your boss that you had ‘quiet days’ when they have been working non-stop to just keep up.
Now global companies such as AMEX, Meta, Wells Fargo and Cisco are launching the Great Recall to reopen offices. I am betting that this will drive a second wave of the Great Resignation as critical employees are forced to give up the flexibility and benefits of WFH to return to their cubicle farms. Luckily for them, there are lots of competitors hungry for talent and willing to accommodate the new reality. I am happy to report that some execs have embraced lessons of 2020-2021 forced WFH. They are encouraging a careful return to on-premise meeting days while researching tools to improve team engagement and visibility. Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace have developed a host of new features and products meant to support business intelligence, collaboration and more. It feels like their innovations have outrun customer education, better practices and overall awareness of available solutions. The tools also seem to suffer from ‘first generation product-to-customer fit’. They work as long as your requirements match the feature’s original story. I will happily dive into this more over time and mainly wanted to share that lovely quote.
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