Volume 148, November 2015: MBWA (Management by Wandering Around)

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, 2015 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Reinforcement is an inside job.” – Linda Broyles, Toastmaster

The MBWA idea was said to spring from Hewlett-Packard and was popularized in Tom Peters’ book, In Search of Excellence (1982). Actually Abraham Lincoln reviewed his Union troops in this manner, and scores of other companies have used it as well. Management by Wandering Around (MBWA) morphed into a more recent Management by Walking Around – but I prefer the Wandering because it connotes the casual and unplanned nature of the contact.

The power of your presence throughout the organization says volumes about your leadership style. You are not there to criticize, but to be part of. Ask lots of questions, listen and observe. Go as often as you can. Travel alone; a C-suite team (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, CIO) would intimidate.

Having simple, truthful conversations with people enables a leader to learn, and gives others a chance to speak, feel heard, and also to learn. This is the natural way humans think together  Listening moves us closer. Dialogue brings about innovative ideas. Thinking rocks the status quo.

Because you must know the processes you lead, ask for a process walk-through, complete with glitches. You might even trade places with your employees for a day, so that you see more of their job from the inside-out.

Another popular expression applies while you are out there: “catch someone doing something right,” as described in Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager (1982). Take time to notice good deeds and applaud them with a sincere thank you.

Practice Point

Have a conversation with every employee, at least once a year, just to learn. Having frequent contact with all employees allows you to lead from knowledge and not just numbers.


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