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Management by Walking Around


First of all, while I like to refer to this as MBWA, I hate the use of acronyms. Acronyms are way overused in some much that it sometimes makes it hard to do business with them if you are an outsider.

While that might be a good topic for a future blog, this one is about MBWA...or for you outsiders, that's Management By Walking Around.  While it has also been referred to as "management by wandering around" it has the same meaning. If you are stuck in the office managing numbers most of the time you can't possibly have a pulse on the most important asset of your business, people. In fact they are not just your most important asset, they are also, in most cases, your most expensive asset.

What To Say

Some managers think it is all about the numbers while others think they are in touch with their staff, but in reality they are not. Here's a great litmus test. Ask your staff how you can help them do their job. You may be surprised at the feedback you get. Honestly, have you ever had a boss ask you that question? My guess is, No!

Why get feedback when I know better?

Now you are probably thinking, if they have never asked then why is it so important. Remember this...just because nobody is doing it doesn't mean they shouldn't be. It is one way you can open up dialogue to find out how they are doing, what they are doing, and help them prioritize in the order of what you know is important. This is your best chance to interact and build that ever so important relationship with your staff. It is also a chance to recognize them for their accomplishments, hopefully in front of others. Remember, though, it is not a time to correct misdirection unless it is in a private setting.

Recognizing staff is good!

What percentage of recognition would you say is through the informal process of regular, frequent feedback? The answer is a resounding 80 % to 100 %. And, of course, the only way to do that frequently is by MBWA. As a rule of thumb, remember that what gets rewarded gets done, but more importantly, what gets recognized gets repeated. Benjamin Disraeli so eloquently stated, "the greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own."  The best way to motivate your employees is to build them up and sell them on the big picture of why they are doing what they are doing. It gives them a sense of overall accomplishment in their self-driven mission and it drives them to be more productive and do better quality work.

Build a business relationship with staff

All this is done in an environment where the boss is walking around and establishing relationships with their staff. That is not to say that you should get cozy with them and invite them all over for dinner at your house to get to know each other. If it is done with the right motive it can be beneficial but there is no need to take their personal time to build the work relationship. This is not about knowing all their kids by name, age and gender. While that may help establish the relationship remember that this is about our business goals and working together as a team. If you ever have to downsize and let them go you certainly don't want to be thinking about their spouse and kids and what they are going to be doing  without that income. If it is purely a business decision it has nothing to do with empathizing for them. Not to say you shouldn't be caring and supportive but fall back on the old adage "don't get too close to your staff/co-workers".

Statistics tell the tale

Studies have shown that only 1 in every four (25%) of 2600 US workers surveyed said that their managers coach them to improve performance. Forty two percent (42%) say that their manager gives them regular feedback on their performance. Just 29% say that they are rewarded when they do a good job. If we are walking around getting feedback and building those business relationships we will know what motivates or rewards them to do their best. If that means seeing that they are an avid Dodgers fan (it can be pretty obvious sometimes) and you happen to have tickets to a baseball game it would be a much appreciated reward. If you think it would be better to give those tickets to a client or customer think again.

The bottom line

Keeping your staff happy and motivated to do their best can have a bigger impact on your customers being happy and satisfied...and who doesn't want a higher retention of staff (especially happy motivated ones). Some estimates show that it costs a year's salary to replace a worker who leaves. If you don't do MBWA set a time to do it on a regular basis. Come in to the office, get your coffee and take time to walk around for 30 minutes. It is an important investment in the future of your business.

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