Managing by wandering around

Posted on Posted in Blog: From The Corner Office

We now know the vital importance of getting up and moving around, so why not utilize the time to our best advantage? When you are on your walkabouts during the day, wander around and visit employees in their work spaces. You don’t need a reason or an agenda. Just say hello and then listen to what they have to say. Welcome to Managing by Wandering Around (MBWA).

MBWA was a phrase coined in the early 1980s at Hewlett Packard and popularized by management guru Tom Peters. Peters describes the day he learned about MBWA as the most significant day in his professional life in this 2:22 minute video.

Go find the real problems

From my experience coaching corner office executives, I’ve learned that the higher you are in the organization, the MORE critical it is that you spend time out among the troops. You will find out qualitative things that don’t make it into the data that comes across your desk. As quality management expert W. Edwards Deming said, “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.”

Efficient vs. effective

With all of the modern, efficient technology we have to stay in touch, leaders may assume that they know what’s going on. Yet they could be missing a lot if they rely only on email and social media activity to check the company’s pulse. Being efficient works very well conceptually–for designing business processes, procedures, and the like. But it doesn’t work very well in dealing with human beings who are filled with feelings and other illogical contradictions.

To be effective in working with people requires building and maintaining relationships. Authentic human relationships take time. They can be messy, and they don’t fit into a nice, neat box. Even the most efficient technology can’t truly measure effective personal relationships.

If it’s good enough for Howard…

When Starbucks was growing at one of the fastest rates ever seen in the U.S. economy, company founder and CEO  made it a practice to visit a minimum of 25 different stores every week. “You want to be there,” he says. “To me that store reinforces all the things I believe in. It’s not marketing, research, consultants, it’s just the experience,” Schultz remarked in an interview as he described a new ice cream store he visited that reminded him of the early days of Starbucks.

Even with all the demands on your time, go wander around. See what you can learn. It will be good for your health and your company’s health, too.