Strategy Lessons From “Undercover Boss”
Since 2011, the majority of my TV viewing has been via streaming. It has been very liberating to control the content that I want to watch. One series I have been viewing lately is called “Undercover Boss.” I haven’t seen it “live” on CBS, so I have had a lot of episodes to see on Netflix.
Undercover Boss has a simple strategy
Each week a company is profiled where the “Boss” (usually the CEO) disguises their self and work front-line jobs at their company. The strategy is to get an “unbiased” picture of what is going on within different areas of operations. Often, it’s to verify the execution of the brand strategy with customers. Or, to find out why a location is performing very well or another is under-performing.
Outcomes are very predictable
- Customer-facing employees have good ideas on how to improve the business.
- Day-to-day communications between headquarters and the front line are poor.
- True strategic listening by C-level management is not happening.
- Pushing decision-making from the top, without employee input, is problematical.
- Some dedicated employees need real help on a human level.
- The CEO is “shocked” by their findings.
The impact on business strategy
To sum it up, the CEO (or other top leader) is in charge of a team where they are not listening to the front line. Valuable information often gets lost between employees and top management. A built-in bias occurs when communications tend to only flow down through the organization. And, obstacles to effectiveness are being created and institutionalized.
Employees need obstacles removed for peak performance
The role of the CEO needs some updating. Traditionally, they are the “top salesperson” of the company. But, part of their strategy should be regularly getting in touch with the front line. Customers and prospects won’t always experience the service they should without the top team leader’s support. Customer satisfaction is the key to sales growth.
Critical listening should be a key part of your strategic plan
- Include front line employees in business strategy planning.
- Change your focus of listening to always start with customers and front line employees.
- Don’t make decisions only on data in isolation of the real world.
- Make it easy to remove obstacles to achieve continuous improvement.
Critical listening should be a key part of your business strategy? Tell me about your experiences!