MBWA: Funny Acronym or Effective Personnel Management?

Management by Wandering Around (MBWA) refers to a style of management whereby the manager, or specifically the project manager as discussed in Chapter 10 of “Project Management: The Managerial Process”, initiates contact and builds relationships with key players whose participation is critical for the success of the project. Through these relationships and consistent face-to-face interaction, the project manager is able to foster cooperation between stakeholders and improve probability of project success.

This style was contrasted with an old management adage standby: “the open-door policy”. The open-door policy encourages employees to come to the manager at any point when a problem arises. It relies on the aggressiveness of the employee, the strength of the manager/employee relationship and the employee’s own initiative to bring an issue to the boss. On the other hand, if the employee is not aggressive, lacks initiative or doesn’t have a positive working relationship with their boss whom they can easily bring issues to, this policy can jeopardize success of the project.

That’s the author’s opinion, anyway.

Reading this passage got me thinking: what kind of manager am l? Which one of these policies works better for me? Is one of these policies really better than the other? The answer, like a lot of what I’ve encountered in B-school, depends. I think it depends on the members on your team, and what their preferences are. If you have people whom you know are hard workers but perhaps not extroverted enough to seek you out when necessary, then MBWA works very well. It lets them know you are involved, present, ready to engage when necessary and the consistent interaction will help foster a positive relationship. If, on the other hand, you have team members who have no problem escalating when necessary, and in fact would not appreciate you showing up at their desk unannounced a few times a week, open-door works better for them. Nothing is worse than having a micro-manager for a boss, and MBWA could start to feel like that to a more experienced/confident employee.

I’ve been in both situations–managed people who clearly prefer (and need) the frequent touchpoints that MBWA can provide; I myself employ open-door policy with my boss. I don’t think one one policy is really better than the other, and both have their appropriate uses in the workplace. Fellow managers and supervisors: which style works better for you?

Dedicated PMO: Good or Bad?

As a relatively new official participant in the PMO process at work, I found Chapters 3 of the textbook very interesting. It helped me to think about how the PMO team is organized at my own company and inherent strengths and weaknesses. As I shared in class, I joined my first Project Proposal meeting a few weeks ago whereby business owners presented to senior staff the list of projects that we wanted to propose the PMO team take on for the next several months. Participating in this process made me think about how PMO should be organized versus how it currently is organized.

Because my project was approved, I am now an official project sponsor (although I have participated as an informal project sponsor in the past). We have a dedicated project team at my workplace, who work full-time on a long list of projects throughout the year. As a project is approved, the project manager from the PMO office assumes the role of facilitator to drive completion of the project. Personnel from different departments are tapped to participate in the project, although we do not officially separate from our normal jobs to complete it. This can be challenging, because the tasks by definition are complicated, involved (otherwise they wouldn’t be approved as a PMO project) and can quickly take over your day/week/month.

We seem to blend elements of the functional organization of PMO with a dedicated team approach. All of the strengths of functional organization, including easy post-project transition, in-depth expertise, flexibility and no change in the overall company structure are present. We also are able to tap into a few of the strengths of a dedicated team approach, including cross-functional integration and cohesiveness. However, this blended approach doesn’t allow for fast or simple completion of projects. It also can contribute to a lack of ownership and make integration a challenge. The PMO office then can turn into task masters, only concerned with keeping the project on schedule. A blended approach does reap benefits of both structures, but the PMO leadership must be very strong to assure those benefits are fully realized.