Management by walking around, sometimes called management by wandering around is the western version of the Japanese Gemba walk. It is Genchi Genbutsu which means “go and see for yourself”. The place you go to is the Gemba, the place where it happens. In this case where the work happens.
Read the article The Gemba Walk – A Tool For IT Management and Leadership for more on the Gemba walk.
In the book “In Search of Excellence” by Thomas J. Peters, Robert H. Waterman, Management By Walking Around or MBWA is described as “Getting management out of the office”. At United Airlines, Ed Carlson labeled it Visible Management or management by walking about.
The Hewlett-Packard (HP) version of management by walking around” describes this technique as “marked by personal involvement, good listening skills and the recognition that everyone in an organization wants to do a good job.”
The concept expands on the open door policy of management by getting managers out of their offices and communicating face-to-face with the people who do the work.
The Benefits of Management by Walking Around
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. – W. Edwards Deming
Be an Active Participant
By using the MBWA method you become an active participant in the work and with the team. You are not sitting behind your desk delegating by email and phone calls. By getting up and going to the employees who do the work you can clearly communicate what needs to be done to them. You can offer suggestions and answer questions on the spot.
Feel the Pulse of What is Going On
Management by walking around will help you stay on top of the work being done and your employees. You will see who is doing what, and who is not. You will be able to spot small problems before they become large ones. You will learn who needs more training to do their job better. You will have a better idea of what is going on with the work and your employees.
Listen to Employee Suggestions, Problems and Complaints
Often employees are reluctant to bring issues to a manager. They feel the manager is to busy or does not care about their issue. When you engage your employees on a regular basis they will see you care about them and will open up. You will learn about problems they have doing their work, problems with co-workers, and suggestions for doing the work better. This will enhance communications, raise morale and productivity.
Improved Team Dynamics and Performance
When employees see you actively engaged with them and the work you will build better relationships with them. You will build trust which is vital to a high performance team. You will be able to motivate your employees to reach higher goals and improve themselves. All of these benefits will build a stronger team and improve performance.
Read the article Why Management Should Go to Gemba for more benefits of MBWA.
How to Manage By Walking Around
The first thing you must do is commit yourself to it. If you walk around and act like you care people will see right through you and you will do more harm than good.
- Do this as often as you can, preferable each day.
- Be in a relaxed mood when you start.
- Find a corner or other area where you can watch the employees, but don’t freak them out. You can learn a lot just by watching.
- When people tell you about issues or problems take care of them as soon as possible and follow-up to make sure they were resolved.
- Ask for ideas on ways to improve the work being done. Those who do the work know how to do it best, but business rules or rigid processes my prevent them from doing so. Everything can be improved and some of the best ideas will come from your employees.
- Don’t approach it as a hovering boss or job inspector. This is an excellent time to coach employees and to work on mentoring them. Your goal is to improve relationships and improve performance, not spy on them.
- Have fun with it. Share personal stories, bring up old times, ask about their family. You want to engage them with a human side not the “boss” side just telling them what to do.
Too often managers manage from behind their desks and rarely venture out where the work is being done. This isolates the manager from the work and from the employees. By using the management by walking around method you will become more aware of the work and build better relationships with your employees.
It does not take much time from your busy day and the benefits you reap will make it time well spent. It improves the lines of communications which is so vital to team performance. Objectives and tasks are more clearly communicated face-to-face and you can answer any questions on the spot.
MBWA makes you an active participant in the work being done and allows you to handle problems and issues before they grow into larger ones. If you want to build a stronger team and improve performance get up out of that chair and go out to where the work is being done.
Never forget who does the real work. The Keys to Successful IT Service Management – ITPS, the people.