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Management by Wandering Around (MBWA)

Management by Wandering Around came to public notice when Tom Peters and Bob Waterman wrote ‘In Search of Excellence’ in 1982. The strength of MBWA lies in informal communications and getting out of your office or cubicle.

It is the opposite of drive-by decisions and drive-by management.

You get to know those you work with, what their passions are, what they think about a project. You get to know the clients, what they want, their fears and aspirations.

‘Stay intimately in touch’
That’s how Peters described MBWA in a 2004 post on his blog, www.tompeters.com. He wrote about scrapping a speech to retailers after he’d spent two hours wandering in and out of shops and had a much more real vision of retail than he had from talking to experts and searching the Web.

He is emphatic that email does not count. You must wander.

Management by Wandering Around is one of my all-time favorite ways to stay in tune with coworkers and clients. When you display sincerity, civility and genuine interest in what others think, when you listen without judgment, you’ll find their core values and passion. People will come to you with comments, ideas and all kinds of helpful information. There’s a dedication and enthusiasm in working together in your workplace or on a volunteer effort. I don’t believe ‘management’ in MBWA is reserved for those with management titles. It is caring about each person, what drives them and managing expectations and information.

In their book ‘In Search of Excellence’, the authors write about excellent companies taking advantage of MBWA and organizational fluidity. “The nature and uses of communication in the excellent companies are remarkably different from those of their nonexcellent peers. The excellent companies are a vast network of informal, open communications….The intensity of communications is unmistakable in the excellent companies. It usually starts with an insistence on informality.”

Finally they write about MBWA as the ability to talk, and I would add ‘listen’, to anyone, anywhere.
It works. I’m a believer.


I am a believer in MBWA also. It is a friendly way to manage. However, a lot of managers do not like to be "talkative" with their employees. They want us to be worker bees and stay away from informal communications. Therefore, the world of "cubicles" in office work places discourages work communications between Managers and co-workers. I was once told that cubicles have been found to be effective in "staying on task" during the work day. I would like to ask Tom Peters how many Managers actually work in cubicles...most are in offices behind closed doors. Rarely have I worked with a Manager who "circulates" on a daily basis with his staff. I think MBWA is not practiced very much in today's workforce. That's a shame.

I use this quite a bit, but it is becoming a lost art for some of the reasons posted by Dee. Many "bosses" really have no idea what their subordinates do from day-to-day. In "Lincoln on Leadership," Lincoln is described as using MBWA as a key part of his management style.