What is Transformational Management by Walking Around?

Management By Walking Around
Ian Pratt
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Transformational Management by Walking Around (TMBWA) is a strategic leadership tool that gets you into the minds of your employees and engages your entire workforce in the visions and goals of your company. TMBWA is more than the simple walk and chat of traditional Management by Walking Around: It is a planned, organised interaction that provides you with insight into your business, your employees, and their processes, cultures, and attitudes. Successful leadership thrives on this valuable information. It is essential for shifting the focus of conversations to your priorities, building company spirit, exceeding your targets, and driving change.

Early in my management career, I discovered the power of TMBWA to change culture. I initially walked the floors of my company talking to staff about productivity, machine functionality and product quality. Later, employee surveys indicated that my staff believed I had little concern for safety issues. I responded by incorporating questions about safety during my TMBWA. Not only did future surveys show my staff now believed their safety issues were a priority, but our injury rates decreased by 66% and our cost per claim dropped by 90%.

TMBWA: A few minutes of planning, a few conversations, a business transformed.

Management By Walking About

How do I implement Transformational Management by Walking Around?


Preparation is the key to a conversation that yields insights and change. Take a few minutes each day to educate yourself about each employee’s performance, improvements (or lack of), ideas, suggestions, training, and targets. Decide on a goal for your conversations. This planning is what elevates traditional MBWA to the transformational tool it is.

For example: You are a manager seeking to increase cross selling in your business. Your goal is to determine which employees are already excelling at these sales and to offer praise. Look up the top employees at cross selling, determine who may have had recent sales improvements, who is working on new sales techniques, what your targets are, and how they compare to your actual sales.


Time your approach so that your employees are open to a chat. You want them to be free to engage and therefore at ease and without distractions. Don’t interrupt them at busy times, when they are with customers, or when on a break. You may need to try several different times until you discover what works best for you and your employees.

If you have done your preparation before arriving at the office, you might choose to begin your talks naturally as part of your morning greetings.


You can and should be open to talking with every one of your employees. Tell them when you notice something positive. Offer praise. Ask how they achieved their accomplishments or what struggles have contributed to their lack of success. Ask about concerns and ideas. And most importantly, listen more than you talk.

Conversing in this way leaves your employees feeling impressed by your knowledge about them and motivated by your interest in their issues and ideas. It also leaves you with information you can act on.

If, during your walk around, you become aware of unsafe behaviors or legislative breaches, you must intervene immediately with both the employee and his or her immediate supervisor.

Otherwise, always follow standard reporting lines or chain-of-command when providing direction to employees.

In our cross selling example: Incorporate your research into your conversations. When talking to employees who have increased their cross selling, congratulate them on their successes for your company and ask what they feel has contributed to their sales. Ask if they have any ideas for further cross selling.


You may find that during your first walks, employees aren’t offering ideas or communicating freely. Don’t be discouraged. Repetitive visits and discussions will eventually encourage employees to bring their ideas forward. Frequent TMBWA will also improve results because you’ll reach employees as issues arise and are fresh in their minds.

MBWA - Stick to it

A Personal Experience with Transformational Management by Walking Around

When I was a young process engineer working as a Business Improvement Specialist, I was tasked with correcting a culture of hazard under-reporting. My company’s initial response was to train staff in hazard identification and reporting, then implement a reporting system. But several months later, a single hazard had yet to be reported.

I knew we needed a new approach, so I decided to implement TMBWA. I walked the company floors, asking employees about hazards, hoping to encourage reporting through our new system. During my first walk, not one employee reported a hazard to me. Checks with our maintenance department also showed no reports of hazards. I increased the frequency of my walks to twice a week and I talked with different employees each day. After the third week, an employee finally approached me and reported a slip he’d had on a set of stairs the day before. Over the next eight weeks, hazard reporting increased significantly. The culture had changed, and TMBWA proved itself to be a powerful management tool that I have implemented throughout my career.