Management By Wandering Around (MBWA) is a style of business management practiced by Hewlett-Packard since the 1970’s and popularized by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their book, In Search of Excellence, Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. The premise is that managers wander through the workplace, in an unstructured manner, observing operations and engaging employees.
Some leaders have substituted “walking around” for “wandering around” because it sounds more businesslike. The problem with too much structure is that it eliminates the benefit of casually engaging employees, which are the most important assets of the company. Making sure that they are content is much more important than checking off tasks in a schedule.
MBWA also provides an opportunity for nurturing employees and improving productivity, as well as capturing new ideas from the front-line employees. It is the best way to find the problems that exist in the organization. Some leaders seem to want to scurry back to their computers to find the latest data, while Persuasive Leaders know that employees can provide the most valuable information.
As the “King of Quality,” W. Edwards Deming, said, “If you wait for people to come to you, you’ll only get small problems. You must go and find them. The big problems are where people don’t realize they have one in the first place.”
I developed the following list when I was working with a company to change its reputation of having a toxic working environment. As company leaders engaged in these practices, their employees responded very favorably. Those leaders who did not participate had the same problems as always.
Ten Best Practices of Management By Wandering Around
- Make MBWA part of your normal routine
- Relax, smile and greet people warmly
- Share company goals, philosophy, values, and vision
- Listen and observe more than you talk
- Ask for feedback and ideas
- Answer questions openly and honestly
- Wander around the entire organization
- Use the time for spontaneous recognition
- Don’t bring an entourage
- Don’t use this time to judge or critique
I share the following benefits of MBWA from my personal experience.
- Trust – As your staff gets to know you as a person and not just their boss, they’ll trust you more. Then, information flows to you more uncensored and timely.
- Business knowledge – Getting out and learning what’s happening on a regular basis will help you better understand how the company truly functions. You will not be blindsided very often.
- Accountability – Everyone is more motivated to perform well because they see their bosses on a regular basis and they get a better sense of how important they and their job are to the organization.
- Morale – People feel better about their jobs and their organization when they feel nurtured, and turnover will decrease.
- Productivity – Great ideas often come from casual exchanges. Happy employees are productive employees.
In summary, MBWA is a tool that will help you be a more Persuasive Leader. True leadership, effective leadership comes from the heart. You can’t do that in your office behind closed doors. You have to get up, get out and connect with people.