Posted by: kerrywills | December 14, 2009

Tip: Management By Walking Around (MBWA)


Management By Walking Around is an approach whereby the Project Manager walks around to the team members and has informal conversations with them on work related topics. MBWA is a great technique for genuinely interacting with the team, establishing their trust, and getting qualitative information on the project   It shows interest in people and what they are doing and results in information gathering significantly quicker then any status meeting can. For projects with team members not located with them, it is a little harder to do but a Project Manager can still use phone calls or instant messages.

There are a few key points for using the MBWA technique.

  • Talk to all team members. Project Managers spend regular time with their team leads but probably not as much with the team members working for the leads. These are the people doing most of the work so it is important to get their perspectives. The Project Manager should also talk to as many team members as possible to avoid a perception of favoritism and only spending time with certain people.
  • Be careful of supervisor relationships. The Project Manager needs to respect the reporting relationship on the project and avoid giving direction which may “trump” that of their team leads. Project Managers should direct team members to their supervisors when these situations arise.
  • It needs to be one on one. To personalize the conversation, it should be with the individual and not in a group. Team members may not be so forthcoming with information in larger settings.
  • Ask questions. Asking probing questions shows interest in the team members work and is a valuable way to understand the work, status and challenges.
  • Recognize timing. If there is a deadline coming or a team member looks particularly stressed, it may not be the best time to stop by.

MBWA is one of the most effective methods of obtaining information early on a project. Even if it means attending less project meetings, a Project Manager should block off time on their calendar and make it a priority and a regular activity. Information gathered in a fifteen minute floor conversation is usually more relevant and timely than information presented in most status meetings. It is also much easier than trying to interpret progress from earned value and time reports.

Learn what's on your teams mind and their concerns (e.g. a missing stapler)

Note: This is an except from my upcoming book and will be copyrighted material

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