Management By Wandering Around

Q.  I like the concept of “management by wandering around.”  I read about it in a textbook, but I think employees don’t like a supervisor who sneaks around in the workplace.  Should I let employees know when I am coming?  I think anything less will undermine trust.

A. Management by wandering around (MBWA) is a supervision technique that is designed to be random or unpredictable.  The idea is to better gauge work processes, issues, and problems by showing up unexpectedly.  You should also add catching people doing something “right” to this list!  No one truly knows where the idea originated, but scheduling visits would undermine its purpose.  Letting employees know you involve yourself in this practice, however, would prepare them to be less annoyed when you show up unannounced.  Certainly there are employees who do not like surprise visits from wandering management, but what they would resent more is you not caring at all.  To make this practice more effective and less intrusive, create a tradition of doing it regularly, and engage with employees along the way by listening to their complaints, ideas, and recommendations for improving productivity.  Nearly all employees have some.  They’ll feel heard and you and your employees will both see value in the practice of management by wandering around.

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