Monday, January 21, 2013

MBWA - Yes it works

Today is a day off, and I was indulging one of my newer guilty pleasures: reality television.

On our last trip to Panama, we found the UK version of Undercover Boss on the cable/dish TV one rainy afternoon in the mountains. The premise of the show is that the owner/CEO of a larger corporation goes "undercover" for a week (5 days) doing some of the front-line jobs in order to learn more about how the company is currently providing service. One of the shows from the UK that I remember was about a fish and chips chain, and some of the stores were in English resort towns. After the week undercover duty, the CEO does a reveal to the individual managers and then to all the folks at the facility.

Today, I was watching TLC and the US version of the show. Unfortunately, I could not find a list of the shows and a link to the one which impressed me.

That show was about Hooters, the restaurant chain. There is an article about the show, but it does not talk about what impressed me.

First of all, Hooters makes its own sauces. That plant was "the baby" of the founder of the company. When he died, one of his sons was suddenly, and unexpectedly, thrust into being in charge of the company. The CEO (son of the founder) made a visit to the plant as part of his undercover experience. What he heard from the employees there, including the plant manager who was a family friend, was that morale was not good. This was partly the result of the fact that folks from the management were no longer visiting the plant. The plant workers felt appreciated by the attention, limited as it was, by having the CEO publicly visit the plant and walk the floor.

This "management by wandering around" (MBWA) is what caught my attention. MBWA is a management practice that can be very important, not just in larger organizations. As a manager, even of a single location organization, I found that it was important to get out of the office and see what was really happening. I also found out things that I might not have heard otherwise. When I was in someone's regular workspace they would sometime tell me things that they thought were not important enough to bring up to my office. It also helped me to visually be able to understand the physical spaces or items involved.

When I was in my MBA program, we did talk about this as one part of a style of management. But many librarians do not get any formal management training, so perhaps this tip will help a new manager somewhere.

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