Des réunions formelles à l’ordre du jour rigide et des emails par centaines structurent le quotidien dans de nombreuses organisations. Ceci pourrait expliquer le retour du Management by walking around apparu dans les années 1980.


Anne Fisher, auteur de Wall Street Women, nous en explique les tenants et les aboutissants dans sa rubrique « Ask Annie » sur le site Fortune.

Dear Annie: My company did a round of 360-degree performance evaluations recently — the first time we’ve done this since I was promoted to management two years ago.

The team of about 30 people reporting to me all had positive things to say about my work, with one exception: The written appraisal I received said they feel they don’t run into me enough, outside of scheduled meetings, to ask spur-of-the-moment questions or get feedback about things that come up during the day. It’s true that I am so swamped with my own work that I am stuck at my desk most of the time, although nothing prevents anybody from stopping by if they want to speak with me.

Anyway, my boss wrote in my file that I should « do more MBWA. » I had no idea what that meant, so I Googled it and found out it means « management by walking around ».

Okay, but how does it work? Do I just walk around and talk to people? It really sounds like a waste of time, not to mention a possibly unwelcome distraction for the staffers I’d be dropping in on. I must be missing something here, but what?


Dear Puzzled: Management by walking around (or MBWA), as you probably know from your Internet search, is the habit of stopping by to talk with people face to face, get a sense of how they think things are going, and listen to whatever may be on their minds.


It may be that popping in on employees unexpectedly is, as you say, a distraction — but enthusiasts say the practice also yields real benefits. »Management by walking around really helps you be more visible, connect with employees and share ideas, and invite suggestions for doing things better, » says Annie Stevens, managing partner at Boston-based executive coaching firm ClearRock.

Beyond the obvious advantages of keeping your own finger on the pulse of the organization, employees are likely to be more engaged and productive if they see you and speak with you frequently than if they don’t. That might sound commonsensical, Stevens notes, but email has replaced ordinary face-to-face contact in many workplaces, so that some bosses have come to seem as remote and inscrutable as Oz behind his curtain.

« There has been a tendency to manage employees via email, memos, and formal meetings, » she says — partly because many managers feel (as you do) that they just don’t have time to meet with employees informally, and partly because « younger and newly promoted managers » may never have learned the basics of MBWA.

So, for bosses who would like to manage by walking around (rather than, as one wag put it, manage by walking away), Stevens offers this checklist of suggestions for doing it right:

1. Make MBWA part of your routine. (…)
2. Don’t bring an entourage. (…)
3. Visit everybody. (…)
4. Ask for suggestions, and recognize good ideas. (…)
5. Follow up with answers. (…)
6. Don’t criticize. (…)

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