Management by Walking Around A Key Concept Used by Apple and Hewlett-Packard to Grow Their Businesses

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by walking around (MBWA) is a concept that was popularized back in the ‘80s by
Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their bestseller In Search of Excellence.  Steve Jobs of Apple was a master
practitioner of this theory.  Not only
did he talk to his employees, he often took customer service calls and called
customers personally when they wrote in with problems.  He would also contact vendors to see how he
could help them improve the supply chain.


is a practice that business owners who are experiencing rapid growth should
adopt now.  It is way too easy to get
caught up in the trappings and responsibilities of being the boss.  You can easily lose touch with your employees
and how they work with your customers.


manager’s main job consists of 1) prioritizing and standardizing how work
should be completed, 2) establishing timeframes for completing work, 3)
providing employees with adequate tools and training, and 4) evaluating the
results, adjusting, and starting over again.


works because while you are wandering around talking to your employees, you are
ensuring that they are working on the right things in the right way.  You can discover problems that could delay
work while it is still early enough to correct them.  And you make sure that your employees have
everything they need to complete their work. 
MBWA eliminates most excuses for not completing work on time and
according to procedure.


make MBWA work you should follow these rules:

  1. Make MBWA a regular part
    of your daily routine.
      But don’t have a
    routine path where you see the same employees at the same time every day.  MBWA works best if you can see what is going
    on when your employees are not really expecting you.
  2. Go by yourself.  Don’t bring all of your assistants.  You want to keep it casual and have a string
    of one-on-one conversations with your employees to uncover problems.  You don’t want it to look like you are
    ganging up on your staff.
  3. Don’t play favorites.  Be sure to visit all of your employees—even
    the janitor and the newest employees. 
    You never know who will have an interesting idea for providing better
    customer service or delivering your service or product more efficiently.
  4. Always ask for
    suggestions and be sure to recognize good ideas.
      Ask everyone for ideas and remember that you
    get what you reward.  If you want more
    good suggestions to improve your business, be sure to share the credit.
  5. Always answer your
    employees’ questions.
      Make sure you always give your employees an
    answer to their questions or problems, even if you have to get back to them
    later.  Just as you rely on your
    employees, they are relying on you to provide strong leadership.
  6. Don’t criticize.  Remember, you are on a fact-finding mission
    with a secondary mission of building team rapport.  If you see something that needs to be
    addressed, try to find a more appropriate time. 
    Of course, if you see a customer or another employee being handled in a
    way you find inappropriate, you should step in immediately.
  7. Make sure your line
    managers know what you are doing and also practice MBWA.
      It is very important that you not appear to
    be undercutting your managers.  They need
    to know that if there is a problem, you will bring it to their attention.  Don’t ever stop just because an employee does
    not like you talking to “their” employees. 
    Give a polite reminder that, as the owner, they are all your employees, and this is your way of making sure the
    customer is being served to your satisfaction.