Chapter 57. The New Way to Manage by Walking Around

Yvette Pasqua

Since the 1970s, some of the most successful managers at tech companies have used a practice called “management by walking around” (MBWA) to build stronger communication channels, gather information and feedback, and reduce inefficiencies. The origin is traced back to the management practices at Hewlett-Packard and was made popular in the bestseller, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies. Steve Jobs and his team used the practice extensively at Apple.

The ultimate goal of MBWA is to improve a manager’s ability to learn to make better decisions and solve problems for their team. Here are the key practices that the manager adopts:

  • Systematically and regularly get up and out of their office and talk to their employees.

  • Start ad hoc conversations so that they can gather information and feedback, hear the perspective of their employees, and identify and stay on top of problems.

  • Create network within the organization to encourage stronger relationships and open communication throughout the whole organization.

Today, the goals of MBWA are still critical to a manager’s success, but we need to evolve past old MBWA practices for the following reasons:

  • Most managers don’t have offices and are already sitting with their teams.

  • Engineers struggle to focus in an open office. Walking ...

Get 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.