Management by walking around and the impact of leaders on culture


Photo by (Tres) “descamarado”

Tomorrow I have a mid-term in Organizational Behaviour course. Some of my classmates have been affected deeply by the content to an extent of seeing every story in the frame of the course. I will take a more conservative approach.

The material we covered so far in class deals with a number of subjects, but one of the most prominent subjects is organizational culture. This is also the main story of the case study we will deal with in the exam (we got it before hand). The case study deals with the change of culture in Pizza Hut (and KFC and Taco Bell) after it was sold by PepsiCo to Yum! Co.

The importance of culture is known to all. We all feel it almost every day. The culture of our nation, our school, the place we work for or even that of our family and friends. It is all around us. And like with most things that are around us most of the time, we give it little thought. But the rigours dealing with the subject of culture got me thinking:

1. Given the fact that many of us spend a great amount of our time in work, how do you choose an organization that has the right culture for you? Organizational culture can have so much effect on your happiness and satisfaction in your work place. But we don’t really have any efficient way to choose the appropriate place for us. Because culture is such an intangible concept and there is no real way for us to know exactly will work for us, it is a little bit daunting …

2. The more practical thing I was thinking about is the importance of leadership on the creation of culture. There is a wide agreement among researchers that leaders are the main agents of change. And new leaders have the most prominent effect on the organizational culture. The problem I think most of us face while dealing with leaders and their attempt to change culture is hypocrisy. Leaders who say one thing and do another. I think the most frustrating thing people encounter. Sometimes the hypocrisy is intentional, sometimes is just a matter of bad practices. If it is intentional, well, there is a bigger problem. If it is not intentional, I think many times it is a matter of disconnection with the reality of the organization and the people who operate it. The leaders don’t know what is really happening. That is why I think one of the most important process leaders should adopt is MBWA – management by walking around. Go to your people, walk around them, talk to them, be the costumer, deal with a costumer, see where the people are sitting or working. If I learned something from all the study cases we read in this Organizational Behaviour course it is this. Southwest airlines, SAS and now the Pizza Hut cases all deal with strong cultures, led by dominant leaders that interacted regularly with their employees and customers. Go out of the office and walk around. If you consider yourself a leader, this is as much a part of your job as sitting in your office. It is more than that – it is something you need to put into your schedule. How many leaders you know have “walking around” in their schedule?


2 Responses to “Management by walking around and the impact of leaders on culture”

  1. Getting down from the ladder « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] Too many managers get to a management position and continue to do what they always did. Their work. Which is good, but not great. The problem is that now their work is being a manager. And that is a totally different job. A job you cannot do without leaving your desk. With out being active about it. without a little, MBWA. […]

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