Finding out the ‘real morale’ in the business workplace

Management by Walking Around (MBWA) is a classic management technique used by managers who are proactive listeners and involves listening carefully to employees’ suggestions and concerns. MBWA benefits managers by providing unfiltered, real-time information about processes and policies that is often left out of formal communication channels. By walking around, management gets an idea of the level of morale in the organisation and can offer help if there is trouble.

The origin of the term has been traced to executives at the company Hewlett-Packard, for management practices in the 1970s which involved managers making spontaneous visits to employees in the workplace. Management consultants Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman also used the term in their 1982 book ‘In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies’.

The emphasis with MBWA is on the word ‘wandering’ as an unplanned movement within a workplace, rather than a plan where employees expect a visit from managers at more systematic, pre-approved or scheduled times. The benefits include improved morale, greater sense of organisational purpose, productivity and total quality management of the company. These benefits may all be the results of employees seeing management out of the office and interacting with employees.

Disadvantages to a MBWA style of management can materialise when managers are perceived as micro- managing and taking ownership of too many issues that surface during the talks. The manager should only intervene when the resolution of the issue is more advantageous to the company than the employee’s development opportunity to handle the next situation on their own.


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