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Management By Walking Around – An Ineffective Administrative Technique

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Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is an administrative technique by which the senior members of administration look over their respective departments by going to the frontlines in person and making observations about the unit. This practice is highly popular in the medical field. However, research by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harvard Business School (HRS) has found the results to be contrary.

We would be surprised to know that though the MBWA was effective in one or two hospitals, nevertheless, the reason for it not being followed correctly was the cause of failure of it. Sara Singer, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at HSPH, and co-author Anita Tucker, associate professor of business administration at HBS, did research to test efficiency of an 18-month MBWA-based program in improving patient safety.

hospital administration
hospital administration

A comparison was made between a control group of nurses’ perceptions in 138 work areas in 48 randomly selected hospitals, and an experimental group of nurses’ perception in 58 work areas in 20 hospitals. The result was amazing! The authors concluded that the MBWA had a negative impact on the nurses’ perception of performance. Thus, the administrative technique was doing more harm than good.

It was found that the managers pay more attention to the problems that need solving, rather than actually solving the problems. Tucker says, “Rather than generating large numbers of safety reports without the ability to act on them, organizations should take action on known problems and build capacity for solving more.”

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