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Operations Q&A: When is Wandering the Warehouse Good?

Operations Q&A: When is Wandering the Warehouse Good?

September 10, 2014

Question: When is wandering the warehouse good?

My last blog made reference to order pickers wandering within warehouses searching for inventory. I’m going to do a bit of an about face this time around and address wandering senior managers. While employees randomly wandering can have a negative impact on productivity, when managers randomly wander, there can be big benefits.

There are many approaches to management; a search of Amazon for books on management philosophy resulted in over 3,000 titles. One that I have always followed is known by the acronym MBWA. Know what that stands for? Management by Wandering – or Walking – Around. The origin can be traced back to practices employed by executives of technology giant Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s.

In the world of lean, MBWA’s counterpart is Gemba. Gemba is a Japanese word defined as “the real place.” The Gemba Walk is an activity that takes management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities to practice other lean principles. (More about this in future blogs.)

Bottom Line: Beyond the physical benefits of getting your backside out of your chair (just ask the devotees of activity-tracking wearables such as the Fitbit), there is much to gain by purposefully but randomly wandering around your warehouse, office and/or factory.

  • There's no better way to understand what is going on than to see it for yourself.
  • When you are seen as one of “them,” employees at all levels will be more likely to show and tell.
  • The more frequent the interactions with those “in the trenches,” the more chance for exchange of ideas leading to greater productivity.
  • Face-to-face, eye-to-eye meetings instead of talking over a desk in a stuffy office improves communications.
  • When employees are able to participate they feel connected and feel better about their jobs and the organizations they work for.

Get up. Get out. You and your company will be in better shape for having done so.

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