MBWA: The Way To Warehouse Excellence?

This article is for those warehouse owners and managers who are committed to ‘next leveling’ their business. It’s a management style not taught in most top business schools, and yet is employed with great success by business giants such as Apple and Hewlett Packard. Today we look at ‘MBWA’ and how it can improve worker efficiency, boost workplace morale, and potentially save your warehouse thousands. Thousands of dollars, hours, and customers.

‘MBWA’ stands for ‘Management By Walking Around’. It is a style first popularized in the early 80s as ‘The HP Way’ – the company approach of the tech giant Hewlett Packard. Embraced by many businesses after being featured in the seminal business book ‘In Search of Excellence’, it was more recently given present day kudos when it was revealed that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, regularly used this approach.

‘Management By Walking Around’ is, from one perspective, as simple as it sounds. It involves you, the warehouse manager or business owner, regularly walking around the warehouse, at different times of the day, on different days of the week, and actively engaging with staff and processes. However, there are important things to be aware of for this strategy to be effective.

  1. Listen to what people say

    Then provide proof that their feedback has been taken on board.

    Merely listening, without taking any of your team’s feedback onboard in a visible way, is probably actually going to do more harm than good in the long run. Your team, from the most recent to the longest standing members, have perspectives, insights, and issues that you aren’t aware of.

    Regularly listening in an informal context, then regularly following up, will boost team morale and may be the channel for a brilliant new initiative or problem fix that you just couldn’t see.

  2. Be willing to give on-the-spot help

    The whole idea of MBWA is to be more in touch with the everyday running of your warehouse. The more you are willing and able to offer on-the-spot help throughout your walks, the less your team will feel scrutinised or assessed and the more they will look forward to your appearances.

    Maybe there’s a tricky supplier phone call you could deal with? Or spontaneously give the new guy some tips that may not have been covered in his induction? And there’s probably not a team around who wouldn’t get a little kick out of seeing the boss do a smidgen of heavy lifting!

Other key attributes of the MBWA approach are:

  • Be relaxed. Informal, spontaneous, relaxed.
  • Be inquisitive rather than intrusive. Listen more than you talk.
  • Be inclusive. Cleaner to CEO, everyone’s part of the team, make sure you don’t miss any section out.
  • Share the good stuff. Talk about the wins, point out those who are doing good things.
  • Be prepared to just chat occasionally. Everyone has a life and interest outside of work, let the conversation go there sometimes.
  • Don’t do it too often. You’ve got work to do, your team’s got work to do, it’s not good for anyone for you just to be walking around all the time. Besides, it ruins the novelty of it!

Online resource ‘Mind Tools’ lists some of the benefits of MBWA as better communication, higher business knowledge and commercial awareness, and morale and accountability boosts. We’re yet to meet a warehouse manager or owner who couldn’t benefit from at least one, if not all, of these things!

If you’d like more specifics on the MBWA approach, we recommend checking out this article by The Economist.

If you’d like to eradicate staff concerns about your pallet racking system so you can move on to bigger and better ideas, contact Cane Tough Tough for a free demonstration on how our system can save you time, money, and injuries.