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Management by wandering around. Coined by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in the beginnings of HP, it meant walk around and talk with your teams, learn what they are working on, ask questions, find out what their concerns are, show you care, praise and recognize people. Basically, be visible and get in touch with reality. It provides a way for you to learn if the new programs you kicked off are being accepted by everyone.

You cannot possibly get this information if you don’t walk around. If the team is remote, go visit them more often. I cannot think of any industry or any organization who will not benefit from more face to face time. Yes it is expensive to travel, but what are the costs to you if the team is not engaged or if you are too disconnected from reality? They will fight your ideas, worse yet, may sabotage ideas, and could leave your organization to find a place to work where their ideas get listened to and implemented.

TV shows like “Undercover Boss” reveal that many times the more senior the leader, the less in touch they are with the day to day issues of their organization. Once the boss gets connected with their people, they are usually very surprised to learn certain practices and processes are not working and many times they are delighted to learn how hard people work, the effort they put in and how much people care about doing a great job.

When you walk around, what should you ask?

  1. “What’s one thing we should do to improve (our plant, our team, etc.)?”

  2. “One of our goals is ___________. What’s one thing you recommend we do to be more effective at achieving that goal?”

  3. “Tell me something stupid that we do that we should stop because it doesn’t contribute to engaging employees and/or taking care of customers better?”

  4. “Who should we recognize, and why?”

As a coach I hear some leaders say they want to empower their teams and stay out of their way and that is why they do not practice MBWA. Or they are concerned they will be brought into the details. While it’s important to plan how you will deal with this new information, it’s key to get more connected with your people, your customers, and your suppliers, your divisions, to learn what is happening from the loading dock to the sales department.

Benefits to you

  1. You can integrate your findings in your next all hands communication

  2. You get fresh data to ask your managers about

  3. Learn about the satisfaction of your constituents, clients, customers

  4. Learn better ways to handle problems

  5. Catch people doing things well

  6. Be inspired and leverage that inspiration to come up with even better ideas

How do you use MBWA? What creative ways do you implement this in your organization? How has it supported stronger engagement? What do you do to increase remote MBWA?


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