Management By Walking Around (MBWA)

According to Wikipedia, Management By Walking Around could also be described as Genchi Genbutsu or having a Gemba approach. Gemba is Japanese for “the place” where the work actually takes place — especially in manufacturing. Because the real value is created on the shopfloor, it’s key for those in management to spend time there observing and understanding.

By utilizing MBWA, you may have more chances to get to know your employees in their work environment. Their frustrations, their challenges, their strengths and weaknesses. Go and see what is happening where the real work is done. Frequently, managers have difficulty knowing what development goals their direct reports should address, so MBWA may help this process as managers may get to know them better. In addition, it may improve the interaction between the critical partners in this relationship.

Modeling by managers can occur too. If you want your employees to show empathy, you need to show empathy. If you value listening by your employees, focus on improving your listening skills. Managers having regular contact with their employees with empathy and good listening skills can help set a positive and productive tone in the department.

This may lead to new ideas. Sometimes, managers walking around can be a great way to chat and bounce ideas and suggestions off one another. Maybe mini-brainstorming events – an informal way to generate ideas or improvement opportunities.

It’s possible that MBWA allows managers to see obvious issues or customer service shortcomings that some in the front line people may not see. Sometimes, those front line employees may not have the right perspective where others new to the situation may see. This collaboration may help build that bond between those individuals.

MBWA might also be used as a tool to overcome possible conflicts with co-workers or clients and customers. Go out and see what’s happening for yourself. Hearing things second hand or not in the proper context makes it challenging for the manager on how best to address the issue. If you hear things first hand or objectively observe tension and by handling it early, may help many issues from escalating.

Even though there are many potential benefits with this approach, it’s crucial for managers to be respectful of others time and not distract to “kill productivity” through the art of managing while walking around. Even though management may feel good about MBWA and providing insight and input, they may need to walk a fine line to be careful not to disrupt the flow. This can impede productivity so be sensitive to what effect you have on your area.

It can be very promising, having the manager know his/her employees so well that they can participate in goal setting. In addition, the improved relationship can help ensure there are no surprises during the employee performance time.

If the leadership team is present and open, your direct reports know when they face a difficult obstacle they can come to you for help and expect an appropriate team to be quickly assembled. This team assembled with figure out how best to navigate and overcome the obstacle so that they are back on track to meet their objectives.

If managers handle things right, their direct reports may be encouraged by MBWA. They may see your commitment to customer service is consistent with the tone set in the department. Proving fair and honest feedback can really make a difference in their attitude and performance.

What is the opposite of MBWA?

MBAMAD (Attending meetings all day)? An MBA professional being MAD?

or MBSIYO (Staying inside your office)?

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.

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