What is Management by Walking Around?

Otherwise called Genchi Genbutsu is a feature of the Toyota Production System. After all, if we are going to pick the metaphor of assembly line/manufacturing to even knowledge centric delivery processes, better learn from the best right. Management by Walking Around (MBWA) has been around for a while, in fact one of the best examples I have heard was from Ramesh Dorairaj (VP AMS MindTree), who cited from his NTPC days of having a manager who practiced MBWA. This manager takes place of a sub ordinate who is on leave to do all the tasks, handle situations, have lunch with the sub ordinate’s group and pretty much go through the entire day on his absent sub-ordinates schedule. These are in effect rituals that every employee goes through and managers tend to forget as they do only management (whatever that means) not real work, to be in touch with those rituals is an intimate way to understand what is “work”.

In IT industry it has become even simpler, to do MBWA all you need to do is set a rule that will forward emails (in effect tasks/decision items that others create for you) to your willing boss when you are out of office. This is a great way to build integrity, trust and relationships within teams that will be scales higher than your last team building activity that typically involves jumping into high chlorine waters, or throwing paint at each other or some such nonsense.

So in effect "increasing the chance that actual issues and unplanned events will be observed first hand and are managed immediately". These points are points of knowledge creation that managers take for granted, and proceed to act as if they do not matter. This sense making is not through an MIS report or from a status reporting presentation, but from issues, constraints, problems as it happens real time. Bonus in this strategy is there will be no back log to process when you return from your vacation. You return the favor for your boss on his vacation. And you also get to do tasks of the next level and build your own capability to handle it.

I know we as humans are great at excusing ourselves (from even the radical sounding ideas such as this one), but I still feel there is genuine productivity gain from plain transparency in work places. Think about it…

books, cognoise

Inbox and your Pre-Frontal Cortex

May be more people will read this post if I renamed it to something like “5 Strategies to deal with information overload”. I was never a fan of ruled notebooks, and the moment I got a chance to switch to plain notebooks I always did. I need the freedom in all the page space, to doodle, to have better representations of what is said than just writing a bunch of text line by line, to recall much easily from those representation. I will hold that rant for another day…

The point of this post is your email inbox today is more like the ruled notebook, and information predominantly text (even what you don’t need also) keeps falling into it. And you have to deal with all that every day. The dealing actually happens in a very small muscle space in  your brain called Pre-Frontal Cortex. Guess the number of concepts that it can hold at any point it is just 1, more than this to a max of 3 the cognitive processes diminish/fade.

I read this book Your Brain at Work and midway we actually lost the book so could not complete it really. He uses the metaphor of stage and actors to explain what goes on in the pre-frontal cortex. The strategy that I have in mind is to use the 5 basic cognitive processes and make a better designed inbox. Lets go


Recall the context and stage players and these are typically time/date, names, resolutions, turnarounds, emotion, the idea itself etc. Current tools are limited to follow up and categorize, if you increase the number of categories or folders you are likely to end up searching harder. I like the way xobni helps in the recall as a conversation, less PFC load more the fun.


It is history in a way but slightly constrained. So easiest solution here is outsource the memorize function to the system by rules, or lists. Memory in a social setting is something to think of, but I am not clear on how personal email and social memory will relate at system level.


This is a high cognitive load process and as you increase the number of variables it gets more complex. Get those assumptions cleaned up and reduce the number of variables.


Defer and delegate rules help here but a more intuitive classification and color will aid the process.


Emails sent within deep hierarchies will have a typical structure of 1 person in To and 1 in cc. In flat hierarchies there are typically no ccs or all others in cc. But structures that are in between the two designs there is continuous movement of to, cc and sometimes even to bcc. It becomes unclear after 3 responses on who owns what actions and all are overloaded with useless information.

I am thinking inhibiting cc as a whole.

What is your information overload management method?