Does Your Leadership Style Include MBWA?
A Practice that is Worth the Investment
From the Desk of David Williams
Many readers may recognize that abbreviation for Management By Walking Around (MBWA). In my earliest undergraduate management classes, many, many years ago, I was exposed to MBWA, and have utilized it in my working life ever since. I found that this practice served a couple purposes, it allowed me to see the people I am responsible for at work, to observe their working conditions, how they were performing their jobs (safety, quality, timeliness) and it allowed me to connect with them at a personal level each and every day.
I have carried that forward into every leadership position I’ve held over the years. In the last two distribution centers that I was responsible for as Vice President and General Manager, I walked the warehouse each morning, and each afternoon, and would greet and talk to each employee on both shifts, almost every day. Over the years, MBWA has allowed me to see things first hand that I may very well not have been aware of until someone got injured. But, it also let me see some really great things that the employees do, innovative solutions that they come up with to overcome some problem that they encountered. And in both cases, it allowed me to either take real-time corrective action, or to provide immediate praise and thanks for doing a great job.
OK, so you may be thinking, “Dave, I just don’t have time to get up and walk around the shop (or office, or warehouse, etc) a couple times a day.” But, as a supervisor, manager, or executive, you really can’t afford NOT to see what your people are doing, and to let THEM see you. Yes, spreadsheets and reports still have to be done, the meetings still have to be attended and chaired, but at the end of the day, it is the people in your organization who do the work that those spreadsheets, reports, and meetings are about.
They need to see you, to talk with you, and to know that you understand their working environment, and care about their safety and their ability to identify and solve problems. It was so fulfilling to have one of the employees pull me aside and say “Hey Dave, can you look at this? This is a problem that we’ve been having and here is something we came up with to get past it.” Many times that innovative solution was a real game changer. That is the power of Management By Walking Around.
So, I strongly recommend that if you are not already a disciple of MBWA, that you build time into your busy schedule to get out from behind the desk, and exercise MBWA. Try it, it works! And, if this is already part of your daily routine, “well done.”