I'm listening to an interview with the outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan, who was also the former Commanding General there. He says his breakthrough (he argues, realistically I think, that there's been progress) was when he started, and I paraphrase, "going out to the countryside." Likewise, in Iraq, when he was CG, General Petraeus apparently had a big poster on the wall with his guiding philosophy. The last item, in far bigger print than the others was "WALK."
So when the hell, in industry or the army, is "walkin' around," getting out and about, going to stop being a "breakthrough" leadership idea?
In 1979, on a visit to then-president John Young, Bob Waterman and I first heard about Hewlett-Packard's MBWA. Managing By Wandering Around. It was love at first sight. And it still is for me. (And, doubtless, Bob.)
Of course, HP was late to the party. By about 125 years.
In my opinion, General Ulysses S. Grant has been by far America's most effective general. (Unconditional Surrender Grant, as he was sometimes called.) Back in the 1860s, Grant was talking about, de facto, CWVA. That is, as he labeled it ... Commanding While Visiting About. On horseback, of course. In fact, better still, Grant was famous for CBWA-ing pretty much by himself. When other generals would "visit," it was invariably with a retinue in tow—loaded with colonels and other officers. Grant traveled with just one enlisted man accompanying him whose task was to ride off and deliver new orders from Grant to other commands.
Why is ... getting out and about ... MBWA-CWVA ... in 2011 ... still news?
It beats the hell out of me.
As one CEO put it, of my life's work, back in 1984 ... "a blinding flash of the obvious."