Management by Walking Around

Posted on July 18, 2007  Comments (3)

Management by walking around (MBWA) is based on the concept that a manager needs to actually understand what is really going on – not just view reports in an office. By seeing the actual state of affairs they can better understand what management improvements are actually doing where work is being done. Lean thinking includes a great deal on the importance of going to the gemba to make decisions. Anyone interested in MBWA should look at some of that material (as often MBWA is too superficial to do much good). Knowing what is to be accomplished by MBWA is important and I think often those that say they do MBWA are not clear on what that is.

In a similar way a manager needs to see how their web site works, if the web is of importance to their organizations (true for most organization but…). Just visiting it and trying to accomplish tasks (purchase an item, find information) would be a good step. In Is Management by Walking Around still relevant for retail furniture stores in a cyber-based culture? by Larry Mullins he discusses this idea (and the idea that yes MBWA is still important):

The message to take home is: set aside a day and walk around. Visit your website and spend some time with it. A neglected website is much like a neglected back end. It is easy to hide if the boss never comes around. And not only is it a golden opportunity lost in permission advertising, it could very well be a source of annoyance if information is out-of-date and inaccurate.

Related: Ohno Circlemanagement improvement searchInformation Technology related postsGemba Kaizen by Imai

3 Responses to “Management by Walking Around”

  1. Richard
    July 18th, 2007 @ 9:15 am

    MBWA is also about making oneself visible, available and approachable. How does THAT translate in the cyberworld?

  2. curiouscat
    July 18th, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

    I don’t think that is the most important thing about MBWA (I just want to make that clear since often what the focus seems to be). The most important thing is the manager gaining understanding what is going on and making better decisions.

    Making oneself visible, available and approachable are good ideas too. How do they translate? Blog about your experiences – internally or publically (that makes you visible). You can use tools such as email to be more visible, available and approachable too.

    But just doing the same old stuff – go to stores and experience what it is like to be a customer, go visit the factory floor and learn (not just showing your face for a photo op), go to customers (and end users) and see them using your products and services (don’t just talk to other “suits”), visit your helpdesk phone center and see what is going on (again to learn not for a photo op), spend 1/2 a day following a nurse around on her regular schedule… etc.

    Some good blog examples: http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/ http://joelonsoftware.com/ http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blogs/jm/ (yes there is a bit of excitement about the author of this one right now) http://www.jetblue.com/about/ourcompany/flightlog/ What do these blogs do? Not only do they tell the public what is going on but they give those in the organization insight into what is important. A blog can certainly be by a middle manager I am just not having those come to mind as much right now… Blogs are not a substitute for getting to know your organization by seeing it in action but they are a great way to be visible (much better than was possible before in my opinion) – that does not mean it is not still important to connect personally when possible.

  3. CuriousCat Management Blog: Jeff Bezos Spends a Week Working in Amazon’s Kentucky Distribution Center
    March 28th, 2009 @ 9:38 am

    Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, is working for a week in Amazon’s Kentucky distribution center. I hope, and based on his past, I believe, that he is going to learn more about how Amazon operates…

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