MBWA was briefly a fad when it was known as Management by Walking Around. Supposedly the visibility of management in the workplace as well as the attention by management improved communication and performance. These days we don’t hear so much about MBWA. It is another great example of chipping off on just one piece of an excellent management practice and watching it wither and die. Walking around is just the means of locomotion to practice leader standard work, which is just a way to reinforce accountability for visual management, which is just a way to make deviations from standards visible, which is just the first step to kaizen.
We must observe with purpose, says Jamie Flinchbaugh in his blog post. As Japanese words such as genchi genbutsu, gemba and the English “go see” enter the management lexicon thanks to the popularization of the Toyota Production System, the idea of MBWA may be making something of a comeback recently. Hopefully it will not be Management by Walking Around, Wandering Aimlessly or Wondering Aloud what they are supposed to be doing there on the floor. Jamie’s article pointed out the need for a framework when you observe, a reason for being there, a learning objective.
In order to follow the spirit of genchi genbutsu, MBWA must become Management by Watching the Actual. This is enables management by fact but different from it. While facts can come to you, the actual is what you observe with your own eyes. The actual does not come to you unless you are on the gemba. You must go to the actual. That is where the walking comes in. You don’t walk around, you walk a round. The difference is subtle but important. A doctor in a hospital walking around is just wasting time. A doctor walking her rounds, or making his rounds, is seeing patients, speaking with nurses and other physicians. In other words, they are caring.
Watch the actual. Observe with purpose. Care.