Consulting by wandering around

The term 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, or equipment, about the status of ongoing work. The emphasis is on the word wandering as an impromptu movement within a workplace, rather than a plan where employees expect a visit from managers at more systematic, pre-approved or scheduled times..”

MBWA is a somewhat dated management mantra but it does provide some parallels for today’s blog.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to view the output from some of the big-brand consulting firms. Some documents have had the distinct feel of being canned reports that are just tweaked up a little bit for each customer and re-sold as many times as possible. This might be justifiable if the concepts are industry-changing innovations, but sadly none of the ones I’ve seen have been like that.

Conversely, the content that has been most recognisably valuable has come from consultants that have been embedded in the CSP for long periods of time and deeply understand the people, culture, systems, processes, pros and cons. The longer a consultant is embedded, the more valuable they “should” become to their customer… if they’re attentive to what they see when walking the customer’s floors.

Not all consultancy assignments allow the time to achieve this level of intimacy. I do encourage the practice of walking around wherever possible though, especially on OSS projects. The OSS touches many parts of the business, so therefore you need to too.

You’ll notice that the PAOSS Tools page contains a number of pre-defined approaches for tackling common OSS activities. You’ll also notice that none would be viable as canned reports. They all require in-depth learning of the customer’s situation before they can be customised to their specific needs. I’d recommend walking around with the customer (or at least asking lots of questions) to derive great value from these tools.

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