Effective Management:

Intellectual Cross-pollination

Managing by Wandering Around (MBWA)

Getting In Touch With Your Employees, Customers, and Suppliers


Vadim Kotelnikov personal logo Vadim Kotelnikov

"Find a kindred spirit in the chain of command and you can reduce the most gigantic and daunting bureaucracies down to your size." ~ Mark McCormack

MBWA Practices

  • Managers consistently reserving time to walk through their departments and/or to be available for impromptu discussions.

  • Individuals forming networks of acquaintances throughout their organizations

  • Lots of opportunities for chatting over coffee or lunch, or in the corridors.

  • Managers getting away from their desks and starting to talk to individual employees. The idea is that they should learn about problems and concerns at first hand. At the same time they should teach employees new methods to manage particular problems. The communication goes both ways.

What Leaders and Managers Should Do

As managers wander around, at least three things should be going on:

  1. They should be listening to what people are saying.

  2. They should be using the opportunity to transmit the company's values face to face.

  3. They should be prepared and able to give people on-the-spot help.

Managerial Leadership

7 MBWA Principles

MBWA Best Practices

What Today's Workplace Needs Its Leaders To Do

New Management Model

Management by Objectives (MBO)

Business Innovation

New People Partnership

Harnessing the Power of Diversity

Intellectual Cross-Pollination

Problem Addressed

Main managerial productivity problem of many companies is that managers are remote from the detail, out of touch with their people and their customers. As W. Edwards Deming, an American who introduced the idea of quality management to the Japanese, put it: "If you wait for people to come to you, you'll only get small problems. You must go and find them. The big problems are where people don't realize they have one in the first place."

Main Benefits

MBWA is an informal top-management practice. It makes the entire workplace less formal. It was MBWA that made leadership more effective in many well-run organizations. It "lets senior management hunt for and enjoy chatting with the creative thinkers in the guts of the organization".5 MBWA frequently goes together with an open-door management policy.

At first, employees may suspect that MBWA is just an excuse for managers to spy and interfere unnecessary. This suspicion usually falls away if the walkabouts occur regularly, and if everyone can see their benefits.

MBWA has been found to be particularly helpful when an organization is under exceptional stress; for instance, after a significant corporate reorganization has been announced. It is no good practicing MBWA for the first time on such an occasion, however. It has to have been a regular practice before the stress arises.

Tom Peters, the guru of Excellence, saw "managing by wandering around" as the basis of leadership and excellence. Peters called MBWA the "technology of obvious"... More

 Best Practices  Hewlett-Packard

David Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, defined himself as a HP man first and a CEO second. He was a man of the people, practicing management by walking around. Packard is quoted as saying: “You shouldn't gloat about anything you've done; you ought to keep going and find something better to do.”... More


 Best Practices  Dell Inc.

"You can't possibly make the best or quickest decisions without data," says Michael Dell, the Founder of Dell Computers.1 "Information is the key to any competitive advantage. But data doesn't just drop by your office to pay you a visit. You've got to go out and gather it.

"I do it by roaming around."... More




  1. "Guide to Management Ideas", by Tim Hindle

  2. "Built to Last", by Collins, J. and Porras, J.

  3. "Roads to Success", by Robert Heller

  4. "In Search of Excellence", by Tom Peters

  5. "Relentless Growth", Christopher Meyer

  6. "Direct from Dell", Michael Dell with Catherine Fredman