This guide teaches you why MBWA is important; its transformative components and benefits to employees, managers, and business owners; and high-value tips and best practices to optimize your career or company’s bottom line.
Popularized by management guru Tom Peters, Management by Walking Around or MBWA is a more personal management style that allows a manager to interact with employees and get real-time feedback on how the business is doing. Using MBWA in workplace checklists is also a great way for managers to make sure that their employees are compliant, motivated, productive, and fulfilled in all areas, suggest the experts from Harvard Business Review.
At its core, an MBWA benefits company owners, managers, and employees because it’s created…:
1. How to manage by walking around: A step by step guide
2. The best use cases for an MBWA
3. The difference between MBWA vs. Gemba Walk
4. The pros and cons of an MBWA
5. The 7 clever tips and best practices to optimize your MBWA strategy
Management by walking around is an established method of management that focuses on face-to-face interaction with employees. It has been around for decades, but its popularity has increased in recent years because it helps managers learn about their employees’ needs in a more effective and closer way. But how do you actually develop MWBA strategies for improving productivity?
The first step in doing MBWA is to make sure you know what’s important to you and your business. This could include increasing sales or improving customer service scores — whatever the objective, make sure it aligns with your overall goals as a company or department head. The idea behind this vital step is to give managers an urgent view of how to build relationships with their employees—something that isn't always possible when you're sitting at your desk all day.
Once you have identified what you want to focus on, make sure these goals are clearly defined, articulated, and sequenced in written form. This is for everyone to know in concrete terms what they are working toward every day. If someone does not know what they are supposed to be doing, they probably won’t do anything at all. Then you will have wasted valuable time and resources on the walk that could have been better spent elsewhere.
To do this, start with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish? What is the best way to accomplish it? Where am I going? Where are my employees going? And how do we get there together, step by step?”
Make sure everyone knows your vision and mission, especially the human resources managers. You need to know who you are talking to and what they care about so you can tailor the message. Find out what your employees think about the company and their work environment. This way, you can identify potential issues with team members before they become big problems since they already know the vision that the employers have set for their work.
This is the time to start walking around and observing what is going on in your business or department. Make notes about what you see and hear as well as any ideas that come up during your walkabout that can be used to improve things for everyone involved.
During the walk, ask questions both about their work and things that are important to them – like compensation, career growth, day-to-day responsibilities, and more. Be sure to ask about things that you can improve upon as a manager. It’s also important to aim to build relationships with the employees by asking them about things outside of work (i.e., hobbies, interests, etc.) to connect with them as people.
When listening, don’t forget to take notes as you go along so you can follow up with your employees on any concerns they have raised during your MBWA session. If possible, schedule one on one meetings with each of your employees at least once a month. Doing so can help employees see the big picture of the organization and increase their engagement, which helps them feel more motivated and invested in their jobs.
Make adjustments based on what you learned during step 3 above and repeat steps 1-3 until you have completed all of your objectives for this round of MBWA (or until someone tells you that they don't need the audit anymore). Ask questions about what they are working on and how it is going in order to learn more about their roles within your organization.
This is an important step because it will help you see where your company needs improvement or change to avoid bottlenecks and non-compliance penalties. This is the only way to know if things aren’t going so well and to help get rid of office politics. This is vital in letting the workforce see what your company looks like from the perspective of an employee, which allows you to make changes that will improve operations and overall job satisfaction.
Management by exception means looking beyond the desired amounts or expectations. This implies taking action when an employee goes above and beyond what is expected of them.
If an employee has an above-normal issue with something, this strategy lets the manager know right away instead of waiting until later in the day when they sit down at their desk. This helps prevent issues from snowballing into bigger problems down the road.
For example, if your manager tells you that you need to hit 10 sales this month and you hit 5 or 15 sales instead, your manager would be conducting a follow-up meeting to see what you did differently this month. Management by exception, therefore, is a management style that focuses on results that are out of the ordinary, bad or good. It involves looking at what's going right or wrong in a business first and only taking action in that context.
If you want to achieve good results, then you need to differentiate the analysis between the average and the exceptions and design the preventive measures in that context.
Management by wandering around (MBWA) is effective as a management style where managers get out into the trenches and work with their team members. This is an effective way to lead because it helps you to understand what your employees are working on and how they feel about their work. It also helps managers to gain insights into what motivates their employees and what doesn't.
MBWA is an effective way for managers to get feedback from their employees, who may have insights into processes or problems that are hard to see from an executive level. On the other hand, sometimes managers don't know enough about what goes on at ground level either. MBWA allows them to connect with employees and get this crucial feedback.
These are the major industries where the use of an MBWA can have excellent results:
MBWA is a management style in which managers are expected to make unannounced visits to subordinates and observe, remedy, and improve work processes. This means that any manual or automatic tool that does this in the workplace can be the tool that loosely translates to an MBWA, especially if it helps foster an open communication between managers and employees.
The short answer is that they are two different approaches to management and leadership, but they both have their place in any organization.
MBWA (Management By Walking Around) is a more people-oriented approach to management and leadership. It involves a manager or leader talking directly to the employeee that they manage, and having regular conversations with them about how things are going.
The idea behind it is that by talking to your team members face-to-face, you will get a much better understanding of what they're thinking, feeling, and experiencing. This can help you to solve problems more quickly because you can see them firsthand rather than from afar.
A Gemba Walk is a far more structured approach for optimizing the systems, not the people. This is where you go out on-site with your team members and talk about the work that needs doing, not just what's gone wrong. You'll be able to see how processes are working firsthand, rather than assessing the people doing them.
If you are interested in learning more about Gemba Walk, we recommend you visit our guide. It includes an implementation checklist and practical examples.
As elaborated above, there are many benefits to the practice of management by walking around. The major benefit is to help managers build trust and foster relationships with their teams, which in turn makes employees more productive and loyal.
However, there are also some drawbacks. Managers who walk around too often can lose credibility with their team members and can even be seen as micromanaging. Here are more PROs and CONs that managers, employees, and business owners must not dismiss:
Supervisors' primary goal when they practice MBWA is to increase employee satisfaction and morale while reducing stress. This method helps supervisors develop closer relationships with their employees and creates a better systematic rapport between managers and employees.
For a more comprehensive study on this, read this Harvard Business School analysis.
You're probably thinking: "How hard can MBWA be when it’s just a manager walking around? After all, if you're working in any industry, it's likely that you're very familiar with the ins and outs of your company’s workflows.
That might be true, but the problem is that it's easy to get complacent. To avoid the costly mistakes in complacency and faulty execution of an MBWA, here are some dos and don'ts, safety tips, and best practices for quality managers and employees to follow:
The MBWA approach is not a new one, but it's still relevant. The reason for this is simple: people are still the most important asset of any company.
The only way to ensure that your company keeps growing and succeeding is to foster an environment where everyone feels like they're valued and can grow. This means making sure that you have the right people in place at all levels of your company, and that those people are given opportunities to make decisions and take ownership over their work. This will all be done more productively with an MBWA.
You have questions or would like to schedule a personal demo? We are happy to help you!