The management by wandering around (MBWA), also management by walking around, refers to a style of business management which involves managers wandering around, in an unstructured manner, through the workplace(s), at random, to check with employees, equipment, or on the status of ongoing work. The emphasis is on the word wandering as an unplanned movement within a workplace, rather than a plan where employees expect a visit from managers at more systematic, pre-approved or scheduled times.
The expected benefit is that a manager, by random sampling of events or employee discussions, is more likely to facilitate improvements to the morale, sense of organizational purpose, productivity and total quality management of the organization, as compared to remaining in a specific office area and waiting for employees, or the delivery of status reports, to arrive there, as events warrant in the workplace.
The origin of the term has been traced to executives at the company Hewlett-Packard for management practices in the 1970s. However, the general concept of managers making spontaneous visits to employees in the workplace has been a common practice in some other companies as well. Also, the management consultants Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman had used the term in their 1982 book In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies.
- "What is management by walking around (MBWA)", BusinessDictionary.com, 2010, webpage: BD-def-MBWA Archived 2020-02-04 at the Wayback Machine.
- This was most particularly attributed to John Blocker, division manager at HP's New Jersey Division in Rockaway. Those of us working there though... really knew what he was doing... he was walking around the facility... BUMMING CIGARETTES. Still... it was an excellent way to keep your finger on the pulse of the activity, morale, etc., in the division and the "style" spread throughout the company over time. Leadership Elements: A Guide to Building Trust, Mike Mears, 2009, 364 pages, p. 51, Google Books link: BooksG-TOC-51.
- In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, 1982, 2004 (360 pages), p. 289, web: BooksG-FOC-289.
- Lorenzen, Michael (18 December 1997). "Management by Wandering Around: Reference Rovering and Quality Reference Serviced". The Reference Librarian. 28 (59): 51–57. doi:10.1300/J120v28n59_06.