Business Excellence Excellence Leadership Personal Development Professional Service Firms Professional Services

MBWA – Managing by Wandering Around

For those of you who have worked in professional practice, you will all be familiar with the increasing use and demands that Information Technology (“IT”) places upon us.

Imagine trying to do your job without the use of or access to a computer and the underlying support programmes. Forget cloud computing and the iPad for the moment and think about that PC or lap top that you find yourself ‘stuck’ to for the majority of your day and most of all the use of emails.

It is unquestionably the case that IT has made the job easier in many respects and allowed us to process more work in less time but it has also caused a not so subtle shift in the way that people interact with each other. And in this instance, I am talking about the internal market and not the way that clients expect to have 24/7 access.

MBWA is a phrase that Tom Peters, of In Search of Excellence fame, says is as powerful now as it was when he first came across the term in 1977.

As I understand it, he and Bob Waterman his co-author on In Search … decided to go out of town and avoid a few of the behemoths that he was at that time analysisng and instead visit a fairly modest outfit based in Paolo Alto by the name of Hewlett Packard (“HP”). There they met with the CEO who told them about MBWA. For HP it kept them closer to the action and made for a more stimulating work place.

I think we should all give ourselves the opportunity to MBWA, and I don’t just mean those people who are in a management role but everyone. There are of course lots of reasons not to spend time *wandering* – that wretched clock that sucks your soul every 6 minutes is sure difficult to break away from – but if you truly want to know what is going on within your practice, find out the latest wins and try to align a message then nothing beats some proper face time.

In my experience, the best managers I have worked with were the best communicators (and listeners) and I just don’t believe that you can gauge the temperature as well, disseminate a message or just test the pulse of your firm without spending time out of your office, away from the computer and going native. Try it. Don’t just stay in your comfort zone and speak to the people that you know or associate with but how about going to speak to someone in another department (and not just a fee earner) but someone in accounts or IT. Yes, it may feel strange to begin with and you may have to have a reason but don’t put it off on the basis of time.

Even if this seems too much of a stretch, pick up the phone and talk to someone. It sure beats that flacid email that everybody seems so settled in doing – a cop out if you ask me.