Like many of you (well, 38 million of you anyway), I watched the debut of Undercover Boss following the Super Bowl broadcast. Interesting premise – a CEO goes undercover at his own company to see how the “stuff” rolls downhill until it lands amidst the workers we see on the show.
On the show the CEO of Waste Management, a seemingly nice enough guy, got a taste of how the policies he sets forth get implemented. It’s like a big corporate game of telephone and he was looking to understand what came out the other end. What he found out was that even with the best of intentions (and we can debate for hours what came out in the editing room), policies often get screwed up on the way to reality. And that’s what hit me throughout:
How can this guy not know that some middle manager is, for instance, going to take the CEO’s reasonable demand for better productivity to an unreasonable extreme? How can you not understand that the result of making waste truck drivers keep to a schedule NO MATTER WHAT results in a female driver having to pee in a coffee can to keep that schedule…and her job.
What struck me as I watched wasn’t what a good job he did in making corrections to his operation. It was more that he had to be hit over the head by a first-hand experience to be jarred into action. Now, I’m sure the folks on his board may have a few thoughts on what he did (though they’ll probably love the positive PR), but honestly, this guy needs to get out more. Walk around. Encourage feedback. I know it’s hard to get unvarnished opinions – people are intimidated to speak – but part of your job as the CEO is to build an environment when this sort of feedback is encouraged demanded, acted upon, and rewarded. The show was a great start for this company but what about all the rest of us out here where there are no cameras?
How are you going undercover?.