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MBWA: Is it really back?


The more things change, the more they stay the same!  MBWA (Management By Walking/Wandering About/Around) does seem to be making a resurgence.

A popular technique in the 70′s (Bill Hewlett and David Packard introduced it) and 80′s (Tom Peters showcased it In Search of Excellence), MBWA was an informal, unstructured approach for a manager to connect face to face with each member of his team on a regular basis.  

Many organizations bemoan how e-mails (often sent between midnight and 7.00 am!), memos (often in the form of directives) and meetings (often with vague  agendas and limited ROI) consume their days.  

Many indivdiuals request, in Employee Satisfaction or Engagement Surveys, an opportunity to be listened to…and heard.  (That’s why the following questions in Gallup’s Employment Engagement Survey unearth such important data:  Q5:  My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.  Q7:  At work, my opinions seem to  count.  Q8:  The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important).

So how do you master MBWA, especially if you’re a newly promoted manager?

  1. Make time:  even if it’s half an hour at the beginning of your  day, over the lunch break and/or at the end of your day.  Pop into an employee’s cube when they aren’t necessarily prepared for you.  Keep it informal.  Don’t stay long:  5-10 minutes works.  Listen.  Hear.  Go back on a regular basis to build rapport.      
  2. Go alone:  there are already too many group meetings!  Individuals want time to express their own opinions. 
  3. Be equitable:  try to spend the same amount of time with each person who reports to you.  You don’t want to be perceived as playing favourites.  
  4. Ask:  whether it’s “what’s going well” or “what’s not going so well”, people like to be asked.  Give full credit for every idea you implement.   
  5. Follow up:  get back with answers to questions asap but within 24-48 hours if at all possible. 
  6. Build rapport:  accentuate the positive!  Discuss performance concerns during separate coaching or progressive discipline sessions. 

The benefits of MBWA include:  managers who are more visible and credible;  employees who are more engaged and productive;  teams which are more collaborative and creative. 

It takes time and effort but MBWA is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of your team!