Management By Walking Around

Latest change: 7/26/15

Management By Walking Around is a concept that many people have no experience with. I first came upon it when I was working for a large blue company and ended up with a new, to me, manager that used it extensively. It took me quite a while to understand that in actuality it is not about management, per se, but rather about communication. Due to that pesky first word - management - you have to fully understand how this process works before you can easily get past the slight misnomer.

MBWA came about due to our society's evolution into "politically correct" speech where it is more important that a person feel good about him/her self than to have actually produced anything. This touchie-feelie level-set comes about prior to any actual communication and is there to establish the emotional level of participants about the subject at hand. It typically takes from two to ten minutes and may be handled just prior to the meeting, when there are large numbers of people present, or as the first few minutes of a one to one meeting. This time does nothing to facilitate actual communication but rather is there simply to make the half brain-dead individuals feel at ease. Let me expand on that statement.

During the late '40s communication tended to be very short and concise due to the number of people that had either been at war or worked in a war-time support job. Everyone implicitly understood that any extra time wasted during communication could conceivably cost someone else their life. This mode extended well into the '50s because of the Korean conflict. By the late '60s we had a new generation that had no direct experience with war and when they were exposed to it via the Vietnam conflict, were unable to understand. In the '60s-'70s there were also a number of people that made extensive use of non prescription drugs. Those people tended to use the narcotics so heavily that by the end of the '70s there were so many people that qualified as half brain-dead that society actually began to compensate for their self induced deficiency. Unfortunately for all of us, this trend continues to this day and in fact has expanded so far that most do not even remember why we make this unnecessary compensation in our communication.

MBWA allows us to skip the unnecessary portions of pre communication because it presumes that you have met in a hallway or other circumstance where time is of the essence and both parties are coming from or headed to another situation. With those expectations, it is easy to "cut to the chase" and handle only the communications necessary to transact the business at hand.

MBWA will consistently provide one or more of three outcomes.

  1. You will make, or receive benefit of, the decisions necessary to continue with business at hand.
  2. One or both parties will leave with "action items" to be handled, or
  3. You will have determined that the subject requires the extra time for touchie-feelie pre communication and have a schedule set for that meeting.

Handled this way, the majority of important business can be conducted in very little time and without the unnecessary portions of our pre communication.

Why then can we not use this technique for emergency communication? By definition, emergency communication must handle only what is essential to the subject at hand and to do so with no wasted time or effort because of the exposure to loss of life and/or damage to property or natural resource. What is so hard to understand about this?

I contend nothing is hard about MBWA. Let us then look at some techniques to make the process work.

E-mail at: