Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corporate Ignorance?

Ever watch CBS’s show Undercover Boss? You should. More accurately, every boss, owner, and CEO should. The concept behind the show is brilliant and executing it is something that every company, especially large corporations should consider doing.
If you’ve never seen Undercover Boss, it is a reality show on CBS. The main idea is that a CEO or other high-level manager of a company goes undercover within his or her company and will work numerous entry-level positions.
The undercover concept provides valuable, and most importantly, true insights into the policies and procedures that are in place within the company, and how (or if) these are working to the satisfaction of both the employees and the customers.
Whether operating decisions are made in an office just a few floors up or in an office hundreds of miles away, the ones making the decisions cannot easily know what is best for the everyday and real-world running of the company until they have actually worked for the company at all levels. Reading reports, going over spreadsheets, or looking at graphs and charts cannot give one the insight needed to make informed decisions. Sure, the ‘boss’ may make an appearance, but the problem with just ‘coming down’ and watching, or even working, is if everyone knows who you are, the employees are most likely not going to be honest with their work ethic or with the problems they may be having with the company. Are you going to call the boss “dumb” right to his or her face? Not likely!

It really is too bad that almost all ‘mom-and-pop’ operations are being pushed out-of-business by huge conglomerates. The mom-and-pop stores are a perfect setup. The owners are often the employees—or at least on the same level as the employees. These owners operate on the ground floor where the true business is—where the real heart of the company is. They aren’t sitting in an ivory office with a panoramic view, while staring at graphs and reports and spreadsheets. What may work very well in ‘test-situations’ often may not work well in a real-life situation. What looks great on a chart or spreadsheet most likely will not translate as well in practice.
It’s a simple concept: if you want your business to be successful and profitable, you have to know what is actually going on throughout all levels of the company... if you want your business to last, you need to know what your staff and customers really want, what they need, what they like, and what they don’t like.
I’ve worked many years and for a few companies. Some were large (with corporate offices in a different province or country) and some were small (where the owner would make the pot of coffee in the morning). The only place where I’ve seen the staff truly happy and committed, where the customers come back because they want to, is the smaller companies—the companies where the owners interact with and listen to the staff and the customers.
The mom-and-pop operations need to make a comeback... where the customers and employees feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated.
But that’s just me...