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Wednesday, May 9, 2012


M. B. W. A.

In Search of Excellence introduces us to the term Management by Wandering Around or Management by Walking About. Both terms mean the same thing.

The bottom line of M. B. W. A. is that the best way for a manager of a company to find out what is going on and keep some sense of control over the company is to get out on the factory floor. For retail it is important that everyone, all management, spend a significant amount of their time on the sales floor.

Probably two of the greatest merchants of all times are J. C. Penny and Sam Walton. Both of these men were practitioners of M. B. W. A.

Sam Walton is said to have gotten upset if he found his people spending too much time at company headquarters.  He is legend for showing up at the loading docks of his distribution centers with doughnuts so he could spend time with his drivers. He felt that the drivers were in and out of many different stores and that they would have a good feel about what stores were doing well and which ones weren’t.

The idea behind M. B. W. A. isn’t to catch people at anything. The idea is so that the one making the decisions has some idea about what is going on.

You can spot companies that don’t use M. B. W. A. a mile away. It seems that many of the big petroleum companies have gotten out of the business of running the retail fueling stations and/or convenience stores. They did this because they could not make the kinds of profit the thought they should make on the stores. So, naturally a company that can’t make something work is in the prime position to tell others how to make it work.

Almost all of the big petroleum companies have somehow determined that the key factors to making a profits are that each location must have at least two Multi-Product Dispensers (MPDs). An MPD is that machine that most people call pumps at a gas station. An MPD will have a hose on either side of it and can fuel two vehicles at a time.

Well somewhere along the line some MBAs got together and said, “A station can’t be a station unless it has two of these things. If you travel much along the less traveled roads in America you will wander upon stations that have had to manage to squeeze two of these things onto small lots. Many times the two MPDs will be so close together that only one of the MPDs can be used at a time. When this happens the second MPD is basically a waste of money since it serves no useful purpose.

Had these MBAs asked the Old Redneck MBA he could have told them that two is not always the ideal number. Had they done a little M. B. W. A. they would have figured it out for themselves.

Another thing these geniuses decided was that we are all too stupid to know what kind of station we are in unless the clerk behind the counter is wearing a shirt with the fuel company’s logo.  “Excuse me sir, I could not tell from that huge company sign outside what kind of station I am in. Could you please put on a shirt to tell me?”

When was the last time you walked out of a convenience store and said to yourself, or anyone else for that matter, “I ain’t buying this company’s gas anymore. Billy-Bob behind the counter did not have on a shirt with his name and the name of the petroleum company.”  If the company gave these shirts to the stations, that would be one thing. But the company sells them to the stations at an astronomical price which makes it harder for the station to make a profit. The same profit that the petroleum companies could not make in the first place.

If the petroleum companies did a little M. B. W. A. they would see that their policies are wrong.

A company should require that everyone in management spend time on the front lines. If it is a retail store the CEO should spend one week each month on the sales floor and in the back room of a store that is a good distance away from the company headquarters. I am not talking about like the show Undercover Boss, which seems to be staged anyway. I am talking about getting down in the trenches and working side by side with the employees and actually learning.

Have you ever had any experience with M. B. W.A. ? Comment and tell us about it.

The opinions or advice listed in this blog or website should be used as a place to start only. It is not a substitute for the use of a professional.
Please be sure to consult your attorney and/or accountant with any specific questions.
There is no one right answer to any business question that will cover all circumstances.
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