It has become common to communicate digitally even when a team is working from the same office or campus.

For instance, your manager may send an email to the team with instructions and suggestions. In such situations, usually, the follow-up conversations also take place on emails or phone calls. As most conversations take place in such a manner, you end up spotting your manager only in the elevator, the lobby or behind his glass cabin.

Regular and in-person discussions are becoming increasingly rare in offices. However, this form of management misses out on an important element: the human touch.

MBWA: Management By Walking Around Concept

While communication with managers is becoming rare in many areas, in others such as production areas, workshops, and at construction sites, the story is different. It is not unusual to see managers walk around such work areas and talk to the staff face-to-face at their workstations. But personal interaction can play an important role in every workplace or work area.

The concept of ‘management by wandering around’ was popularized by management expert Tom Peters. According to Peters, good managers share a strong bond and communication with their teams. Their interactions are not only at the professional level, but also at an informal personal level. For instance, interacting with your manager during a coffee break may be more informal and personal in nature.

As the MBWA meaning explains, by walking around, the managers are able to listen to their team members and discuss their problems, ideas, or concerns in an informal setting as opposed to the formal environment of the meeting rooms or cabins.

Management by Walking Around

MBWA or management by wandering around enables interaction with subordinates at the latters’ workstations, which creates the impression that the management is standing by the team members.

There are three key components to MBWA management concept:

1. Walking around the workplace

2. Talking to employees

3. Creating personal networks

A crucial aspect of management by walking around has to be the spontaneity and genuineness on the part of the managers. It shouldn’t come across as aimless or superfluous. The manager has to make the rounds of the area where the immediate subordinates work.

MBWA meaning plays out when the management doesn’t just say ‘hi’ or ‘good morning’ to team members, but when there is genuine interaction between the manager and the subordinates. The conversations have to be sensible yet informal and appropriately personal. For instance, it might be about the health of an employee who recently took leave due to an illness or his hobbies or interests. Such interactions help build rapport.

MBWA revolves around the manager’s ability to keep his ears to the ground and stay strongly connected to his team members, their thoughts and actions.

It is these rounds of management by wandering around, which include meaningful conversations, that can create a manager’s network within a firm. Such conversations should create greater understanding and a healthy relationship between the manager and the employees.

More often than not, just one round of walk doesn’t serve the purpose. MBWA has to be a consistent management approach as businesses are dynamic and new situations and challenges arise every now and then. Sporadic walks would make the efforts of management by wandering around ineffective.

Peter wrote a famous book on management by walking around in which he outlined three key components of MBWA.

According to him, MBWA management yields the desired results only when these three key components are present in the walks:

1. Manager’s ability to listen: 

You won’t be able to reap the benefits of MBWA by simply walking around and talking about whatever you feel like. You also need to listen to your subordinates and understand the undercurrents or signals through observation. The idea is to open up a communication channel that is open, honest and supportive.

2. The power of discussion:

Management by walking around gives you an opportunity to make your subordinates better understand their goals, and the company’s objectives and vision.

3. Readiness to provide on-the-spot support: 

The efficacy of MBWA management lies not only in listening to your subordinates’ challenges but also in showing readiness to provide support on the spot. Such an attitude will convey that the management doesn’t take the employees’ problems casually, but is genuinely interested in swiftly solving them.

 

Conclusion

In the digital world of the 21st century, communication has become easier due to the availability of multiple channels. Yet the most effective form of communication remains face-to-face interaction. MBWA focuses on this aspect of human communication. Even though MBWA management is not a novel concept, detailed ideas and practices about it are not well-known.

Now that you’ve the meaning of MBWA you can leverage the concept to become an effective manager. Harappa Education’s Managing Teamwork course familiarizes learners with several high-impact management techniques to build strong teams at work.


Explore topics such as How to Manage Crisis, Types of Power & McClelland’s Theory of Needs from our Harappa Diaries section in order to build trust-rich relationships at work.

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