After the plan has received customer approval, it is time to launch the project's activity. At this point, the project manager's role changes somewhat from facilitator to manager. This does not mean, however, that the project manager adopts a top-down authoritarian style, but rather takes on a modern management role with "walk-about" management. Walk-about management is done when a manager gets out of the office and visits with the people who are executing the project's tasks.
The Wall Street Journal once attributed walk-about management to Bob Packard of Hewlett-Packard Corp. Packard was an outstanding manager, but walk-about management goes further back. In fact, it was widely practiced at General Electric in the 1940s.
Modern management was further defined when Tom Peters, the widely read commentator on management practices, interviewed John McConnel, CEO of Worthington Steel Corp. Peters asked McConnel how a large steel company could operate and operate very well using only a two-page operating manual (which only stated the company's basic principles.) McConnel replied, "We talk to each other."
 From a personal conversation with John McConnel.
During the project's execution, the project manager practices walk-about management by regularly talking to team leaders and encouraging them to talk to each other. Walk-about management is visiting with team leaders where they are working every day or as close to every day as possible. The project manager must always visit a task leader shortly after his or her task has started.
The project launch begins as each task lacking a predecessor gets started on time. Without attention, this may not happen. When a project's completion is weeks, months, or years away, on-time startup may not seem urgent. However, start delays translate into completion delays. Consequently, the project manager makes a point of conferring with the task leaders before the launch date, making sure that they have all necessary resources, and are prepared to begin their task at 8 A.M. on the startup date. If any help is needed to meet this date, the project manager helps! THEY TALK TO EACH OTHER.
Walk-about management is practiced if task leaders are around the corner or around the world. For example, a project manager leading an information systems project for an international company spent much time in Canada, England, Japan, and stops in-between. This high-tech operator used e-mail and conference calls extensively, but he also traveled to far-flung venues and visited task leaders, face-to-face. THEY TALKED TO EACH OTHER.
When face-to-face meetings are not possible due to budget constraints, logistics, or corporate policy, the project manager must arrange video conferences or teleconferences with the team leaders who are working on current tasks. Frequent communication between the project manager and these team leaders must go well beyond checking on the team leaders when their tasks begin and end. The project manager must follow up on each of these conversations with an e-mail summary. E-mail exchanges between the project manager and the task leaders who are currently working on tasks is valuable. The project managers should ask, "What have you done this week? Any problems? What will you do next?"
Walk-about management helps to gather up information. The project manager saves the baseline Gantt chart as a baseline reference. (Microsoft Project 2002® has a procedure for saving the baseline and later comparing it to the operating Gantt chart as work proceeds.) As tasks start, the project manager indicates a task's startup on the operations Gantt chart.