Posted by: Joe Hoffman | June 26, 2009

MBWA Tom Peters was right

Years back, I picked up the name/tag “Managing by Wandering Around” from Tom Peters and realized that is pretty much how I conducted my typical day.   His commentary did raise my awareness and subsequently, I did try to make sure that I spent time with and wherever my folks were working.  To perfectly honest though I generally did this around 2-3:00 in the afternoon.  That just happens to be my low period of the day when desk work was impossible and I needed to get pumped up.  A cup of java just would not cut it; I was already drinking about three quarts a day back then.

My staff quickly understood that I wasn’t looking over anyone’s shoulder.  I was there to do a managers number one job:  find out what is getting in their way to performing at their best and fixing it.  The payback was immense.

During the Hudson Valley Business Edge conference at the Holiday Inn in Fishkill, NY my job as consultant to the principles and as a generally interested party, was Chief Kibitzer and problem solver.  While wandering around over the course of the day I had the pleasure of watching a real practitioner of the art of MBWA, the Catering Manager.  For a smallish event, it was complex from the house point of view.  A ballroom with multiple setups and reconfigures including meals and keynotes, four breakout rooms to be serviced, coordination with the A/V staff and videographers and stills photographer.  It all had to be setup at 7:30 am and was in use until we all retired to the bar for hors d’oeuvre at 5:30 pm.  Rich was everywhere, all day.

I took a minute of his time around 4:00 to compliment him and remarked about how he used that old technique so well.  His response was classic.  “If you want them to follow you, you need to be there.  He then held up his hand, which had a power cord in it saying, “You also need to make their job easy for them.”    Another classic example; rather then send one of the young people to play gopher, he did it himself so they could do what they needed to do.  With that, I realized this is what I had observed all day.

What’s the take away from all of this?  Just a reminder that MBWA still works, you can’t lead from the rear and leaders are more effective than mangers.


  1. IMO, MBWA has several advantages:

    – It raises the confidence of employees by giving constant feedback and not by micromanaging
    – It enhances the relationship between the manager and the employees
    – It motivates employees (I want to get more things done to show my manager the next time he’s around).

    Here’s a great article on the Management By Walking Around, hope you’ll get the chance to read it.

  2. I read your article, a great piece that developed the value of MBWA beautifully.

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