Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finding out what your staff is doing-Undercover Boss

To linger in the observation of things other than the self implies a profound conviction of their worth.
~Charles-Damian Boulogne

I do not watch TV very much, but the show “Undercover Boss” has so impressed me with the message it sends to all entrepreneurs and managers. The premise of this valuable show is that the CEO of a business goes undercover and works in various entry-level jobs.

I have only seen two episodes of the series – one featuring the CEO of White Castle and another featuring the CEO of Hooters – however, in both of these cases, the experience changed the way the CEO saw the entire business. For example, at Hooters, the CEO saw a manager abuse the serving staff, and at White Castle, the CEO observed the lack of teamwork that existed at many of the restaurants. Additionally, White Castle CEO David Rite saw vividly how difficult many of the jobs were, and more importantly, he saw how policies and procedures imposed by his top staff just did not work in practice.

To me, the message of this show is so important for each and every entrepreneur. That is, from the standpoint of the CEO, your perception of the business is vastly different from that of your employees. Additionally, the problems that you think staff is having are a whole lot different than their actual problems. In one case, a manager at Hooters thought he was doing a great job as he was making his numbers, but his staff despised him and there was an associated decline in morale.

It is so amazing to me to see entrepreneurs who conduct their regular visits to various parts of their operation, see everything looking great and staff appearing so happy, and leave thinking everything is going well. However, management knew the entrepreneur was going to visit, so of course the place was cleaned up and everyone was on their best behavior.

Sure, you need to have scheduled visits to communicate critical news about your operation, but you also must visit unannounced. Visiting without advanced notice and without the escort of the department manager is the only way you are ever going to see what is really going on.

Now you might not be able to go undercover as your company is just too small to make that a feasible option. However, there is no reason why you cannot spend time wandering the various parts of your organization unannounced and talking to the staff about some of their issues. I really believe that more information can be acquired from lower staff levels as they are closer to the customers and have to live with the many rules and procedures that top management has instituted.

If you are to be an effective manager and leader, you must find ways to observe how your organization is really operating and how effective they are. Clearly, the purpose of doing so is not to punish anyone, but merely to find out how the organization really works. While going undercover is an extreme measure, there are so many other ways to extract this valuable information. Suggestion boxes and unannounced visits are just a couple of these options.

Now go out and make sure you have a system in place that allows you to observe and evaluate your organization at the lowest levels of operation.

You can do this!

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