What is MBWA..? Chances are, if you are a manager and are over 50 years old, you know what MBWA is and probably have had management training in the technique. Back in the days when we had our business departments, in some cases divisions, all in the same office building and we managed face to face, MBWA was just one of many leadership techniques. But, if you are a manager under 30 years of age, you might not have ever heard this term. In fact, you may not even had any kind of management training and development. How times have changed!
MBWA - Manage by Walking Around.
Though I formally learned about MBWA in new manager training years ago, I experienced it first hand even before that. The year was 1983 and I was an Account Manager in Dallas. I was having lunch with my customer, a value added reseller of ours, and point of contact for our relationship. We were at their company cafeteria and it was a Wednesday. Now, you might be thinking, after three decades, how could I possibly remember that it was a Wednesday? Well, I remember for a fact that it was a Wednesday because on Wednesdays the company cafeteria served Prime Rib and every Wednesday we would have our customer/vendor status meeting and working lunch. Just me, from the vendor side, and my point of contact, from the customer side.
On one of these Wednesday’s and for no particular reason, a well dressed gentleman sat down and joined us for lunch. I immediately recognized this gentleman, though he had no reason to know of me. The only thing stranger than his sitting down and joining us were the two egg rolls and small ice tea on his tray. Not that I have anything against Chinese food, but it was Wednesday, prime rib day.
After joining us, this gentleman proceeded to ask us our names. He needed no introduction. He went on to ask us about our areas of responsibilities and our measurements as well as how business was going. And by how business was going, he didn’t mean good or bad. He asked for details such as Year to Date percent of quota, forecast for the year, and top 3 sales opportunities for the month.
Throughout the conversation, he offered ideas and suggestions. And as our little lunch chat was coming to an end, he gave me his business card and offered that if I ever needed any help or had a problem in working with the company to give him a call. He also asked for my business card and told me how important my efforts and support were to the company. He then told the two of us to give him a call as soon as we achieved our reseller objective for the year so he could congratulate us. And, the sooner the call, the better. We learned quite a bit from this man’s suggestions and ideas. We are also quite inspired to achieve our goals and we continued on with our working session with renewed vigor and resolve. We were pumped up and it felt great.
That is the effect that MBWA, Manage By Walking Around, can have on others. It is a leadership technique that has withstood the test of time and that can be used by any manager, especially the PMO Manager.
Oh the company, it was EDS. And the gentleman that joined us for lunch in the company cafeteria, he was Ross Perot, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of EDS.