They are fascinating on a number of levels. The most obvious, of course, is the spectacle of members of staff doing their usual thing uninhibited by the presence of their Chief Executive or Managing Director—because they are unaware of the true identity of the newcomer in their midst. This leads equally to moments of hilarity and of tension for the viewer!
What truly fascinates me, however, is the voyage of discovery which the CEO or MD is about to embark upon. Their usual diet of good news reports that paper over the cracks in their organization is replaced with first-hand experience of what’s actually going on at the coal face.
In a recent episode the newly appointed CEO of a well-known UK fast food chain spent time behind the counter and serving customers in a number of outlets. She discovered:
- the woeful lack of grass roots investment that left staff struggling with long past sell-by date machinery in unloved premises
- poor practice… for example, the people responsible for food preparation unable to communicate with table-waiting staff that customer food was ready
- lack of training and other human resource guidelines
- poor decision making—like the decision not to relocate one outlet to a higher customer-footfall part of town.
Armed with this first-hand experience, the CEO was able to return to her management team fully versed in the key issues facing their business… and quickly set about making the necessary changes.
The obvious moral of the story is that leaders need, as a priority, to get their feet out from under their desks and out and about in their organization, particularly those areas which ‘touch’ customers. And two other things… firstly, the CEO was able to recognize the effort made by some junior members of staff because she had seen their commitment for herself. How many of these would otherwise have gone unrecognized? Secondly, she clearly had the budget to sort problems out… not all leaders have this (and should probably look for employment somewhere else if that’s the case!).
Tags: coal face desks food chain food preparation footfall grass roots hand experience hilarity human resource guidelines junior members managing director moral of the story newcomer news reports poor decision true identity unloved voyage of discovery waiting staff woeful lack