Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Management By Walking Around — also known as MBWA –became a catch phrase for hands-on, up-close-and-personal people management. What’s equally amazing is that it’s survived the test of time and remains an extremely effective technique.
It’s probably because MBWA keeps it simple: Check the pulse of people on the front lines, to hear what they think is working and what isn’t working.
Most managers already know how counterproductive it can be to spend the day shackled to a desk, especially in an active manufacturing environment.
But overcoming that is much more than simply getting away for an hour or two here and there.
Taking the time to Walk Around needs to be part of your managerial routine.
(Steer clear of a fixed schedule, but it should happen regularly enough that employees don’t suspect you’re spying and trying to catch them not working.)
Five tactics to keep in mind when formulating your plan for MBWA:
- Travel alone — leave your posse behind. The idea is a series of one-to-one interactions with individual workers, not communication by committee.
- Spread yourself around equally. Over the long run, you should be spending roughly the same amount of time with everybody. That doesn’t mean walking around with a stopwatch timing your visits. It’s just that if people see you leaning one certain way, they’re going to fell slighted — even discriminated against.
- Ask for input. Encourage employees to share their ideas about improving processes with you — you really want to hear what they have to offer. Then, if one of those ideas bears fruit, make sure everyone else knows where it came from.
- OK, you don’t have the answer now … But tell employees you’ll follow up and get back to them — then do it. It shows you don’t think you know everything, and that you are a person of your word.
- Praise in public, criticize in private. The purpose of MBWA isn’t to expose someone’s shortcomings for all to see. If you see something you don’t like, make a mental note about it. Come back later and address the concern in private.