Management by Walking About


June 5, 2012

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Whilst I am a firm believer that better processes and systems can improve Corporate Governance by helping inform Directors and providing a foundation for improved Board effectiveness, all the current publicity around the leadership at Barclays Bank alerted me to reflect on two themes that have resurfaced periodically through my professional career: Organisational Values and “Management by Walking around”(MBWA).

I have been most fortunate in having experienced over 25 years in two very different organisations that both were committed to institutionalizing strong values and practised management by walking about. My hypothesis is that the two are complementary. While in the Royal Air Force I toured over 200 units with a Commander in Chief who devoted a most considerable proportion of his diary to seeing exactly what was going on around his various bases and talking to a full spectrum of people from the most junior to the most senior. Later at Accenture I sensed that the strong focus on core values allowed our people to work together well – even when they were brought together into teams for quite short periods – and enabled the organisation to operate with less process / bureaucracy.

What Barclays Bank core values are, how they communicate and reinforce them and how much MBWA goes on??? To quote Tom Peters and Bob Waterman “instilling the system is backbreaking work. It requires persistence and excessive travel and long hours, but without the hands-on part, not much happens, it seems”. Tom’s reflections on MBWA 25 Years after In Search of Excellence


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