After last week’s post, Scrum By Walking Around, a reader emailed me to ask if I knew the the origins of the phrase management by walking around (MBWA). Rather than replying based on what I believed, I decided to do extensive Web research but the results were inconclusive. Like me, most sources seem to credit the Hewlett-Packard culture for creating an active management style that ecouraged managers to spend most of their days visiting employees, customers, and suppliers. As I wrote in the inaugural post of this blog:
They believed that only through these two-way dialogues would line workers understand how they could impact strategic objectives and senior management recognize required changes to corporate strategy that might be otherwise invisible from their lofty perches. For Hewlett and Packard, managing by walking around was a way to get everyone on the same page; what they believed was the secret to their success. As Packard wrote in The HP Way, “It is necessary that people work together in unison toward common objectives and avoid working at cross purposes at all levels if the ultimate in efficiency and achievement is to be obtained.”
While HP may have created management by walking around, the concept was popularized by management consultant Tom Peters in his best-selling books In Search of Excellence and A Passion for Excellence.
American companies and consultants aren’t the only ones to practice MBWA. A central tenet of the Toyota Way is called genchi genbutsu which loosely translated means “go and see for yourself”. Rather than relying on others, managers are encouraged to “go to the source to see the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals at our best speed.”
In fact, management by walking around is so popular that it has countless spin-offs. There’s Training By Walking Around, Search By Walking Around, Retailing By Walking Around, and even Marketing By Walking Around. One of these days I’ll finally mobile-enable my site and support blogging by walking around.