While recently accompanying an executive as he visited four newly acquired dialysis facilities for the first time, I was struck once again by the importance of Management by Wandering Around (MBWA)*. Intentionally wandering through your organization allows you, as a leader, to observe reality and hear concerns from the front line in an informal manner. When you listen, it sends a powerful message that you truly do care. When talking with others, I try to remember to put them at ease, by considering their communication style. Certain people like to get right down to business, while others want to create a personal connection by discussing something safe, like the weather, at first.
At the other end of the spectrum, is Management by Objectives (MBO). MBO maps each person’s performance goals to company strategy. This is a more formal strategy, and certainly has its place. Each employee should understand how their contribution fits into their group, department, and the entire organization. Progress toward the objectives should be discussed regularly on both a formal and informal basis. Your staff knows what is important to you—it’s the items that you check up on.
Lastly, there is one other technique—Management by Exception (MBE). MBE tracks the specific key performance indicators of a process and flags the output that is not at an acceptable level. MBE can be a very useful tool, and the effort of deciding what to measure and how to measure it provides very important discussion topics for your teams. Information systems, can ease the score-keeping burden, but the discussion is still crucial.
As a leader, you want to establish the strategy (MBO) and operating parameters (MBE) and then inspire and fuel the discussion by MBWA.
*Tom Peters first introduced the concept of MBWA in his book, “In Search of Excellence.” Here's an excellent article on the MBWA.