Update – November, 2011: Featured in FranklinCovey’s “5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity”!
Update – May, 2012: Walking Meetings Featured on ABC 7 News!
Update – December, 2012: More science: Walking, good for your brain, too (Infographic)
Update – May, 2014: Featured on CBS News! Walking meetings: New office phenomena – Videos – CBS News | Ted Eytan, MD
Update – May, 2015: Featured by BBC! BBC – Capital – Forget standing meetings, try this instead
Update – August, 2015: Featured in Harvard Business Review! Quoted in “How to Do Walking Meetings Right” – Harvard Business Review | Ted Eytan, MD
I was perusing through the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention’s excellent December, 2007 issue of Health Power! Prevention News, and happened on a review of this systematic analysis of the impacts of using pedometers to increase physical activity and improve health (Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, Sundaram V, et al. Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health: A Systematic Review. Jama 2007;298:2296-304.)
More on that later, though. It stimulated me to write a post about how I use the pedometer in my work life, and my journey to develop “The Walking Meeting,” the coolest part of getting things done that I have added to my repertoire.
So what is this? About 3 years ago now, I was offered a pedometer as part of a test of a walking challenge. I have since upgraded to a non-freebie variety, as recommended to me by Mark Graban, publisher of the well regarded LEAN Blog. In the LEAN world, pedometers are great for time-motion studies.
They have been great for bringing fitness into the work environment, too, and changing conversations. My other nickname for this is “WWW” or “work while walking” (or maybe “walk while working), and here’s the recipe:
- When you are scheduled to meet with someone, ask permission to try doing it on foot.
- Assuming the answer is, “Sure!” meet the person at the appointed time and just start walking.
- You can have a destination in mind, like the nearest coffee place, or not. I typically know the neighborhoods and a few paths in mind, so I ask “East, West, North, or South?” or “Water view or urban view?” We had a special attraction in our back yard, the Space Needle, which I had a yearly pass to (look at family annual pass), expressly for this, so there was always the option of “Up.”
Now, here are the considerations to be aware of:
- If you don’t set this up in advance, pay attention to safety/mobility issues. I have been trained to ask about a person’s shoes, and I have learned the hard truth about different expectations for women and men in the workplace with regard to comfortable mobility (and this is a call to action to change the expectation).
- You can manage mobility issues for different people by shortening the walk, such as a walk around the block, or simply doing it the next time. Even a little bit of walking makes the difference. Carry the other person’s bag if it’s appropriate. There are very few purses that don’t look good on me.
- If it’s felt that there’s a need to “sit in front of a computer,” ask yourself if this is needed for 100 % of the meeting time. Usually (92.5% of my experience) it is not. What I’ve actually found is that 30 minutes of time organizing, asking “why?” (A LEAN tool), and setting the stage, makes for a very efficient next 30 minutes.
Usually, this can be done with a maximum of 3 people walking together. Four is kind of a crowd.Update, 2015: Walking meetings can involve as many as 1,000 people. There’s no more limit on their size 🙂 (see: Innovation Learning Network Day 2: Another Massive Walking Meeting )
- Regarding destinations: coffee places are okay, but they can drain your budget and negate the caloric advantage that you’ll get. If I ask for the walk, I usually buy the coffee. I pay far more for a gym membership.
If the answer to the question about doing this isn’t “Sure!” ask again for the next time. Sometimes a little advance prep makes the difference – allowing someone to bring comfortable shoes to work or to arrange their day just right (physically and emotionally) is worth it.
And here are the advantages:
- Privacy. It’s less likely that you’ll be interrupted by someone walking past your office
- You’ll enjoy a different kind of relationship building, both with people you know well, and with ones you don’t know well. There is something about sharing an experience with someone that creates an imprint
- You will organize your thinking on the topic at hand – this is a great way for people to go at the same pace for a little bit
- You will be visible in the community that you serve, as will your colleagues, which will make you think about new ways to serve better.
Most importantly, you’ll feel as good as you ever have about using a meeting as a business tool. And this is a business tool – a lot of work gets done this way.
There are less and less people in my world that expect me to sit down for a 1:1 discussion. I think at one point my colleagues were saying, “It it your turn now to take him for a walk?” I’ve had great meetings this way where I am sometimes the leader and sometimes the laggard. There are people who I work with that I can barely keep up with on foot! I never knew….
In terms of the study referenced above, the conclusion points to the use of pedometers as a useful adjunct in maintaining your health.
The walking meeting helps you have fun, stay fit, and enjoy your community while you provide service to it. Try it, once, twice, or for a lifetime. One day I would like to practice medicine by going for a walk with patients….