Management by Walking Around (your bugs and tests…)

I was introduced to the acronym MBWA (Management by Walking Around) by a colleague who “explained to me” that this is what I did with my teams.
Silly me, I thought that this was called “management”… but I guess I was wrong :o)

In any case, I noticed lately that just as there are Managers who practice MBWA and those who think it is not necessary (or as one put it, overrated!), there are also those who practice MBWAYB&T and those who don’t.

Management by Walking Around Your Bugs and Tests is as simple and important as the original MBWA. The idea is to be connected to what happens in your projects at all levels, personal as well as professional, and keeping up to date not only with the statistics but also with the actual tests executed and issues being detected.

For me, the advantages of doing this are multiple:

1. I am able to provide proactive and direct feedback to the people who report to me and their teams.
This also helps them feel I am part of the on-going process and assign enough importance to what they do in order to review it.

2. It gives me a good visibility into what is going on in my projects.
This specially important during crunch times, when we need to make quick and risky decisions on the spot.

3. It gives me a good indication of the real and low level needs of my teams.
I am able to help my team leaders to handle things that might not be obvious to them, and thus help them and their teams.

4. All the “cliches”.
It keeps my testing senses up to speed.
It helps me to learn the new features.
I feel part of the team.
etc…
(not untrue, but in some ways trivial)

There are also potential problems with this practice that should not be overlooked.

1. I’ve seen Managers that walk around so much they don’t get to do anything else. In fact it takes a lot of discipline to make this a routine that is both effective and efficient.
You need to limit the amount of time you do this and do it on a regular basis, that way it is easier for you only to go over the stuff that changed or was added since the last time you checked your information.

2. Your employees and specially the managers who report to you need to understand what you are doing and why. If they think you are micromanaging (or even worst, that you don’t trust them!) they may feel threatened by your actions.

3. You should not do the job of your employees or your managers, make sure you know where to draw the line.
There are times you need to let people do what they think is correct even if you think otherwise; and at times you’ll need to let people fail in order to learn their lessons.
Be smart and know when to Let Go!

I know that some managers say that the amount of data reported by their teams does not allow them to do this.
I DISAGREE, and I tell them that even if they check only the major bugs and only a sample of the tests that fail they will gain more than by going over their daily numbers when they arrive and before they leave work…

It may only be me, but I don’t feel I am managing my team unless I know how they feel and what they are doing. This is why I practice and encourage MBWA and MBWAYB&T .

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One Response to Management by Walking Around (your bugs and tests…)

  1. Anonymous February 28, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    I absolutely agree. The numbers can be misleading. You don’t know the real situation of your team unless you directly observe. I encourage the managers that work for me to do this and I (as a director) take strolls (real or virtual) often enough to “taste the trench”. Very astute risks as well – it’s like anything else, it changes when you observe, so you need to be careful not to step on toes or draw too many conclusions about behaviors as your people will behave differently when you are around.

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