Articles

The practise of Management By Wandering About (MBWA)

Management by Wandering About (MBWA), also known as Management by Walking Around is a widely adopted technique by managers where they directly observe employees working. MBWA is generally perceived as an effective method to achieve organisational goals.

This management technique relies on managers making frequent but random unstructured learning-oriented visits to subordinate’s work stations to observe on-going work, equipment, processes, customer interactions and solicit employees’ opinions. It only succeeds if one has good listening skills and promotes employee engagements during these visits. Additionally, an organisation needs to instil a culture and common belief that every job is important and that every employee is trusty worthy. If the above enablers are in place, MBWA as a concept can be a strategic driver.

When used correctly MBWA, is akin to the Toyota “Gemba walks’ where managers go to the location where work is performed, observe processes and talk to the employees there. The whole idea is to see problems in context, which should aid problem solving in the long run. Organisational leadership should note that MBWA makes teams stronger by increasing information sharing. This alone will result in managers and employees being on common ground and therefore more likely to quickly solve challenges faced in achieving departmental goals. These synergies will ultimately improve performance of organisations.

Experience has shown that in some cases what senior managers observe and hear from employees is off on a tangent with what their supervisors would report. Machines could be turned off due to very simple reasons like a fuse blow that was not being purchased on time and such protracted processes could cost an organisation thousands of dollars. This practical example indeed demonstrates that adopting the MBWA technique can expedite problem solving.

In organisations that are going through a lot of change be its structural or technical, MBWA acts as a catalyst of the needed paradigm shift and enhance managers’ capabilities by letting them appreciate how simple problems can cause serious bottlenecks which affect business. MBWA clearly takes the ‘open door policy’ to another level. Here walls are actually brought down and the Manager’s office is taken to the employees. Interestingly, in the services sector this management style also aids Managers in ‘Know Your Client’ principle. Random branch visits also offer an opportunity to engage with clients, understand their expectations and help build mutually beneficial relationships.

These informal unstructured contacts from MBWA yield positive results like early identification of warning signs before disaster strikes. Additionally, there is control of the processes as the leader can communicate what needs to be done as well as verify progress. Strategically MBWA also aids the leadership by broadening their business knowledge which helps them to make informed decisions. While all organisations are working on securing employees’ commitment, engaging their emotional energy and attention is critical. As leaders endeavour to put their company’s whole brain to work, incorporating new learning styles and approaches like MBWA is a critical skill of   the age. Employees need managers who listen and take visible interest in running projects and by so doing they build team enthusiasm and individual job satisfaction.

While MBWA can improve moral, it needs to be managed though. After weekly contacts from managers, the staff moral can wane due to these frequent visits. Also note as leaders that when this technique is applied, it has to be done evenly to the whole organisation. If all staff do not experience this direct contact with the leadership, they will feel they are targets of unjust exclusion and discrimination. Therefore, the leadership needs to be mindful of these possible perceptions when implementing MBWA. Empirically, it has been proven that there is no system to record and measure this process’ effectiveness.

As leaders it is good to always appreciate the adage, ’If you wait for people to come to you, you will only get small problems. You must go and find them as the big problems are where people are yet they do not realise they have them ‘. What dead truth!

Other leaders in organisations are applying it as a means to boost morale, while for others MBWA can be developed as a technique for checking with staff about the status of the work in progress by walking around in an impromptu way. In the words of G.K Chesterton, “One only sees great things from the valley; small things from the peak.”

Nowadays organisations need leaders who make people reflect on their work and behaviour. This requires leaders giving the employees that space to contribute to issues that effect on their work stations. Managers should also reflect and review MBWA observations and discussions and take action accordingly otherwise the management style will indeed just be ‘wandering around!’

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Subordinate Appraisal of Managers

Performance appraisals have been an old age corporate tradition to evaluate employees at least once a year. These known appraisals usually run top-down. However, Subordinate Appraisals of managers, acronym (SAMs) are increasingly becoming a very useful tool in providing information on a manager’s management style and inter-personal skills which is critical for business. SAMs are done bottom- top. Though intended as a tool to aid managers, senior managers leading corporates need to note that subordinate appraisals do actually reveal common needs of employees as well.

Today’s organisations are now moving towards an era of 360-degree reviews as a way of facilitating empowerment in organisations. These reviews started around 1992, when employees requested for an improved performance evaluation process. In the same decade, SAMs became an ordinary practice as companies promoted more broad ranging internal communication. Subordinate appraisals, now considered a valuable source of information about managers as the information generated has been very handy in assisting employees and supervisors to identify areas of strengths and those areas needing improvement. Consequently, there have been significant benefits to this type of evaluation although initially there were concerns about possible dishonest feedback and its subsequent repercussions.

The use of this system in the developmental sector started when international organisations were battling with victimisation challenges. The process then required all employees to complete a form responding to questions like; “Does your supervisor treat you with respect? Do they value your contribution?” Such questionnaires were initially administered by external consultants in strict confidence. Yes, the initial exercises had a lot of upshots and yet on the part of employees such processes made them feel they have a voice and that the company values their contributions towards the effectiveness of management.

The process has continually been refined and varied depending on organisational needs. More organisations are embracing SAMs because of the carried perception that employees are often perceived as more accurate than a typical manager’s assessment of their subordinate’s performance.

A lot goes on between organisational leaders and subordinates and it is pertinent to note that stress caused by management is a common reason cited by employees in exit interviews. Use of these appraisals offer a tool to convey employees’ concerns in a less confrontational way and the implementation of such evaluative systems by today’s businesses is a must do if you are to remain relevant. Leveraging on this information is a critical skill of the age, bearing in mind employees are more involved in daily interaction with their supervisor than is the supervisor’s managers.

If organisations take subordinates’ collective appraisals to heart, they offer critical input on areas needing supervisor’s attention to becoming a better leader. Experience has shown that usually the majority of employees convey the same message and the totality of this feedback has helped the supervisors improve their performance. Those comments about a supervisor’s negative attitude, bullying tendencies and arrogance for instance have put pressure on the organisational leadership to assess how his attitude and behaviours have impacted on the performance of that supervisor’s department. Smarter organisations have made use of these subordinate assessments on managers, employed consultants who collate, analyse and present the findings to all staff. The naming and shaming from these feedback sessions has yielded strides despite emotions and tempers flaring in the room. More radical organisations often invite their board members to such feedback meetings and with the board in their midst most managers have remained open minded and have taken tips on how to better train and develop subordinates. Such interventions have yielded strategic benefits as appraisals from both top down and bottom up have aided in the development of a strong culture of communication. Employees feel comfortable speaking their minds and offering opinions. As today’s leader it is good noting that encouraging a proactive expression from employees promotes a generally healthier environment than leaving them little opportunity for open feedback. This tends to cause employees to gossip and develop negative attitude towards management.

As Leaders, let us understand the importance of feedback from your subordinates. Subordinates actually unearth that other side of your manager which you will never get to know. It is a known phenomenon that modern workplaces as defined by their ability to innovate and or adapt to change are more transparent and communal than ever before. Consequently, those  leaders who have not already implemented such system for their employees are missing out on important insights. While implementing SAMs will give employees a sense of power and prevent employees venting their frustration on a client or looking for an escape they might actual feel part of the organisation success and at no cost help your organisational leadership to develop themselves.

SAMs help you to criticise, compliment, encourage and motivate your boss always bearing in mind that the process does not allow you to be impulsive.

It can be a testing time for employees to evaluate their supervisor if he she is not receptive to constructive feedback. Please take note of such pointers as they are only tips of icebergs.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Corporate culture of conducting exit interviews

When certain employees choose to leave an organisation, it is sometimes a disappointment to others, while for some it is indeed good riddance. For the organisation, this trend should be more than just the ordinary ebb and flow of business. Is it not worth knowing why employees are leaving?

Exit interviews provide factual information that can be used to improve controllable retention factors. For any leader always bear in mind that opinion, emotions and feelings are valid. Such interviews always give management the best opportunities to receive unfiltered feedback as departing employees have nothing to lose. When such information is received by the company leadership, maintain an open mind to possibilities and potential areas needing attention. It is important to combine this feedback with stay interviews. This will facilitate discussions and present an opportunity to evaluate our leadership skills, relationship between the organisational leadership and its workforce, policies and assist in strategic planning interventions. The intent of the stay interviews is to focus on the lived experiences of current employees and what they would like their future to hold with the organisation. Unfortunately, few leaders are interested in this strategic imperative. Even the Human Capital departments who are custodians of such policies do not really prioritise this process. This is actually grievous.

Interestingly, in the Zimbabwean context exist interviews are viewed differently in the corporate sector. The majority of organisations interviewed on the implementation of this tool are not prepared to listen to anything that comes from a disgruntled employee leaving. Unfortunately for most of our entities, the general practice has been when an employee gives notice; there is a tendency of negotiating the employee out faster. Once done, the processes of job posting, advertising and selection of candidates starts, giving no attention at all to the person who is leaving! Despite the many advantages organisational realise by conducting such interviews most organisations do not seem to hold this practice high. Empirically, it has been noted that replacing an employee cost on average 21% of their salary.

Leaders, make it a practice to collect the data but not as an end but the means to the end. Human Capital departments upon collecting the raw data from the exit interviews must use it to come up with easy to interpret tools such as excel pivotal tables. Such collated information will inform the improvement plans that ensue. It is also good business practice to link the exit data to the organisational strategy as a way to assist in measuring the effectiveness of an organisational human capital strategy to key areas such as recruitment and training, performance and leadership issues. Organisations prioritising change will definitely employ the use of such a technique. While management are struggling with introducing improvements in organisations, it is also true that the competitive pressures keep getting worse despite the improvements in programs and processes. The pace of change keeps accelerating and organisations continue pouring executive energy into the search for higher level of quality and devices and overall business agility. The answer to some of these pressures could be lying in some of those very soft issues of management which maybe redressed through feedback revealed from exit interviews.

Human capital gurus writing on current human resources management have stated over and over again that senior management is being increasingly faced with that challenge to create a sense of   fulfilment in employees. While institutions like the communities and families which once provided individuals with identity, affiliation, meaning and support are eroding, only the work place has remained the primary means to personal fulfilment. Making use of exit interviews provide that platform where managers show employees that they have recognised and responded to that reality where employees do not just want to work for a company but to belong to it. So, when such an employee leaves an organisation on their own volition, exit interviews will help management understand those deep personal drivers propelling an employee to leave their family. Hence it is increasingly becoming the responsibility of corporate leaders to establish and maintain a link with each of its employees. Making use of exit interviews helps leadership to attain their objective of changing the employer/employee relationship from one in which employees feel they work for a company to that which recognises them as belonging to an organisation.

Exit interviews are so important and are highly effective when managers look for trends and act on them. Introduce best practices like ‘new trends’ quarterly meetings with key executives to discuss why people are leaving. Consider this feedback as a gift and never ask for this feedback if you are not prepared to change the issues. Once trends are established try and also look for trends beyond the interview and tie these with anonymous surveys data to get a full picture. There will indeed be a change on the bottom line!

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted atTel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Do working women employees really face challenges in the organisations?

“A society that does not establish pathways to leadership for all its citizens is a society that is denying itself a possibility of excellence.”

I have been inspired to write this article following some engagements I had with my professional women colleagues who are in the business sector. Working women are said to face challenges and obstacles in the workplace than their male counterparts. Women who have children tend to experience more demands on time, energy and resources and in spite of these many challenges women still succeed. Women also struggle to find better ways to balance work and life and often this guilt comes from outside forces like pressure from husband, family and friends. More and more studies are being released that reveal these challenges women face in the office compared to male counterparts.

According to my colleagues, gender equality has been talked about, mainstreamed in all developmental projects but pointers are still there showing that this imbalance still vividly exists. The task to emancipate these women from some of the socially driven perceptions about women roles and abilities in the workplace seems to lie on organisational leaders. Why this imperative on organisational leaders?

Some of these challenges emanate from the fact that society has drawn gender lines early and the exclusion of women has continued throughout adulthood. Unfortunately, this discrimination has not only remained in the private sector but even in the public sector as well. Even in those instances where women have higher degrees than men, they are still passed over for low jobs that go to less educated and less qualified males and also receive less compensation than men for the same job. A study by UNDP confirmed this position.

It has been argued that while explicit gender bias may have largely disappeared from the workplace due to tougher legislation and increased focus on diversity issues, challenges still remain that take a different shape and form from those encountered by prior generations of women. According to my colleagues in most organisations women have to put more effort than their male peers in order to earn recognition and praise. Such perceptions have led women to overwork themselves just for thumbs up. One woman said she worked as the only senior member of management team in an organisation for eight years. She said, ‘I found many times my contributions had to be significantly larger   than my male counterparts to rent a public acceptance in front of various audiences’. She said this antiquated perception of women at work led to uncomfortable and gendered office relationships. She said during her eight years stint another woman then joined the organisation and upon seeing the subtle engendered behaviour she remarked to her, “stand up for yourself next time and you need to develop thick skin to tolerate the inappropriate judgements and comments.”

Such examples still do point to the reality women still face in organisations. To solve these challenges in the workplace, as employers we need to shift mindsets. Even at the national level, it is not enough to go through the motions with anti-harassment policies that do not really change practices. As leaders the challenge is to start thinking outside of stereotypes and evaluate individuals based on their work and value they bring to the organisation. Leaders should start thinking of making use of flexible working hours so that the absence of the woman on national duty whilst on maternity leave is not viewed otherwise. It is known that the attitude of a company starts at top and when we the leadership take action to reduce the daily challenges and help women feel more comfortable with their roles, that is when a culture can change.

One women corporate challenge which remains is that of sexual harassment. My colleagues argued that this is a real and persistent problem but one which can be actually very hard to identify.

While experts preach about where women have come from, it is unfortunate that stereotypes and outdated notions of traditions remain prevalent in modern corporate culture with glass ceilings continuing to be created for women. Pink collar jobs like cosmetology, waitressing and secretarial continue to be reinforced as women work. Who says!

For the leadership it is worth noting that several studies continue emerging highlighting the great strides women have made in terms of upward mobility. There are however still walls to be breached and hurdles to be crossed when it comes to true equality of women in the workplace. Together with the achieved strides, leaders in companies should start communicating the benefits that gender diversity has for individual employees, customers, organisations and the society at large. Continual gender bias affects talent planning, hiring, promotions and performance management. McKinsey and Company conducted a study “Women Matter” and it did provide factual evidence that supports that higher involvement of women in the corporate world leads to organisational stronger financial performance, improved corporate governance and stronger assessment of risk. Think about itǃ

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

As leaders, how are we managing our least favoured employees?

Leadership provides a pivotal role in organisation set ups. It is that ability to portray a great vision and our acknowledgement of followers that helps in maximising performance. Our followers are inspired by us and would aim at achieving beyond their expectations through the guidance we provide as well as provision of an environment of trust. Organisations with effective leaders stand a chance of realising increased profitability and performance.

What then is the impact to the whole organisation when a leader is heard saying, ‘I cannot stand so and so.’ or worse still, ‘I cannot stand him for no apparent reason!’ As leaders how are we relating to these unfiltered thoughts? In most cases leaders are known to frustrate the employee in an effort to get rid of them and with the current provisions of the Labour Act number 5/ 2015, the hatched idea will definitely materialise by giving the particular employee a three months’ notice thereby closing the door in their face.

It is a leadership role and responsibility to mentor and manage every person in their team whether we like them personally or not. As leaders we need to bear in mind that we are expected and have to be seen to exercise emotional intelligence. It will therefore be grievous and inhuman to start making notes every time the employee does something that makes you cringe. It is not at all professional to treat an employee in this manner, rather try and understand what is it about them that drives you crazy. Remember your least favoured employees see how you interact with the rest of the team. Would it be wrong then for the employee to view you as subjective? Employees who suffer these challenges have no nice words about their bosses because they clearly know that you do not like them. Other employees would proffer solutions like, “Why can‘t you take your boss for lunch so that you try and understand each other?”.

As the least favoured employee trying to address an issue with the boss is usually hard. In the process, you would see them grin or quickly dismiss you which could be their tactic to keep your mind off how annoyed they were at the conversation. Such leaders may also ask issues beyond your job scope to humiliate you.

But for leaders who want to build strong teams, there are ways to manage someone you do not like as opposed to openly micromanaging them, sideling and bullying them. It is worth to note that employees in organisations complain about incompetent bosses, or dysfunctional co-workers as well as irritating and hateful direct reports. It will be easier for leaders to note that their jobs will be simpler if they liked everyone on their team. However, this is not necessarily the best as such team members fall victim to the comfortable clone syndrome. Leaders successful at fostering innovation endeavour grating different approaches through a productive process of creative abrasion. People liking each other is not necessarily a component of organisational success! But it is no basis to dislike employees for no apparent reason! Relatedly, as leaders we need to note that it is not possible to build a team comprised entirely of people we would invite to a backyard braai. Gurus in business management say from a performance stand point, liking employees you manage too much is a bigger problem than disliking them. It is often those we do not like that prompt new insights and help propel the group to succeed. Instead of spending time thinking how irritating the person is, as a leader focus on why you are reacting the way you are. Ask yourself this question; is the individual a real problem or maybe they just remind you of someone you do not like? Try to be honest with yourselves as leaders. It is far easier to change your perspective than to ask someone to be a different person. Rather seek out the positive in a person since there is no one who is 100% annoying. Given their talents, and their limits, consider what is it that they can do that would be best for the team. You need to be vigilant about keeping your bias out of the evaluation and compensation processes. If not managed well such biased outcomes can result is serious litigation process which are usually costly to the organisation. Ask yourself if you are sticking by the standard you use for other people. If not, you need to seek counsel from another employee who is familiar with the work the disliked employee does. Let them play the devil’s advocate.

It is good as leaders that we appreciate that we don’t view leadership as a solo adventure. Leadership is very muck akin to a team sport. Instead of using your dislike as a catalyst to procedurally fire them, consider staffing them to serve as your right hand person and where possible consider changing yourselves rather than wanting to change the whole world.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com