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An Alternative MBWA

Stoke Consulting - Executive Coaching | Leadership Development

Our client, a mid-sized manufacturer had enjoyed strong growth over many years, although more recently, performance plateaued.


The CEO was frustrated and told us “We are making small improvements in almost all parts of the business. There are lots of business improvement activities, lots of energy, yet overall business performance is flat”.

He continued “I thought maybe I was being told only what I want to hear. It’s like everyone was busy getting nothing much done so I tried some MBWA (management by walking around), spending time with the operators in all parts of the business. This was great at first as I found some easy-to-fix issues, primarily around cross-functional communication”.

“But after a few weeks, the easy-to-fix opportunities dried up.  My people were tiring of telling me the same few complex issues they wanted resolved.”

“I know that fixing these bigger and more complex issues would drive overall business performance and I can feel the company owners waiting for me to get this done”.

Working with the CEO, the Stoke Consulting consultant identified that the management team were enthusiastic but didn’t have the cohesion to identify ways to make the big changes across departments that were needed.


The goal was to address the issue of collaborative problem solving across departments, so we suggested a new type of MBWA – “management by walking away”. This approach wasn’t entirely our idea. Also known as “management by walking out of the room”, this was made famous by a study of how JFK operated during his Presidency. Well, not every aspect of his Presidency, just his complex problem solving one.The idea is that by doing so, the leader prevents their own status or opinions from unduly influencing the group's discussion and decision-making process.In the approach we agreed with our client, the CEO’s role is to define the opportunity and set the required outcome, then bring together people with diverse perspectives, allocate just 45 minutes and then walk out of the room. Whatever the group can agree on in that time is trialed. With the CEO, we introduced this approach to the management team and then across key people in the business. We helped facilitate a few of the initial sessions focusing on helping the CEO to define the opportunity, then providing the work groups with some problem-solving techniques.


Everyone in the business was surprised by how much they could achieve in just 45 minutes.  It fostered an environment where team members felt empowered to share their insights and perspectives, leading to innovative solutions and more robust strategic decisions.

It took only a couple of weeks for this new approach to take root.  Several of the more complex opportunities facing this business were addressed and the practice of collaborating across the business grew into a habit.

The business moved from small and simple business improvement initiatives to things that helped make the CEO proud.

Interested?  Happy to walk you through the process one-on-one.


Kevin Wallace
Stoke Consulting

Kevin guides business leaders through their toughest challenges to achieve their goals.  With a deep understanding of organisational issues and a broad business knowledge base, Kevin is a valuable external asset to any team. His talent for deep listening helps him uncover root causes and develop tailored solutions. Kevin thrives on complexity and brings proven concepts, applied experience, and personalisation to every project.