Management by Walking Around

The current two dimensional HP logo used on co...

The current two dimensional HP logo used on corporate documents, letterheads, etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Management by Walking Around (MBWA), also known as Management by Wandering Around, is a very effective management style for school principals or any other types of managers.  This is an approach to management which calls for leaders to wander around the school or workplace at random to talk to employees, understand their challenges and stimulate institutional progress.

It is believed that this form of management started at Hewlett-Packard in the 1970’s when managers there made unexpected visits to employee work stations.

The emphasis is on wandering around the school, since we are focusing on school management and leadership.  The visits are informal and unscheduled.  They should be unexpected.  Since staff and students are aware that the principal can suddenly appear, anywhere, at any point in time, they tend to remain diligent and on task at all times.  This increases productivity and goal-directed activity.  It is a better strategy than trying to run the school from the principal’s office only, relying on memos, status reports and meetings.  MBWA also improves school climate and performance.  Misconduct and delinquency decrease.

MBWA builds team spirit and leadership capacity.  It also creates a good rapport between principal, staff and students.  This includes non-teaching staff as well.  The leader becomes more visible as he stops to talk to staff and students face to face, finding out how they are progressing and what problems they are confronting.  Everyone shares suggestions for improvement.

Through MBWA the leader knows exactly what is going on in his organization.  Staff are more alert, engaged and productive.  They feel that their contribution is valued by management and their level of job satisfaction increases.

School leaders should make time for management by walking around.  They should visit everyone over a period of time and then restart the cycle since this is an ongoing process.  This allows them to be accessible to everybody and removes the element of remoteness from leadership.

Principals who practice MBWA should listen to suggestions and complaints.  They can then provide ideas, support and motivation for their staff.  This is how relationships of trust can be built, enabling the school to attain its goals.


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