Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Power Of The CEO Cleaning Toilets

In a previous post I made the following comment after reviewing a local organization that was living the vision.

"Before he left I asked Jeff our General Manager/CEO why he insisted on being involved in daily operations. He would routinely start doing dishes or bus tables if we needed another set of hands. He said he was just part of the team... But management awareness is another posting. A good thought though. How long has it been since your CEO or even department heads have actually done what your organization does?"
-Living The Vision #2

Well on Sunday night I saw a program that did just this idea of a CEO actually working front line positions! It is called Undercover Boss. In the first episode the President of Waste Connections worked several front line positions undercover. These included being on a trash truck, cleaning portable toilets and working as a landfill employee. During his experience he was fired for the first time in his life by a front line Waste Connections supervisor who said he was to slow. A female employee shared she had to pee in a bucket to keep up with her work schedule. At the end he realized he was completely out of touch with the effect his decisions had on the organization. He made immediate changes to ensure the intent and not just the word of his decisions were realized. This Sunday the CEO of Hooters will go and work undercover in a local Hooters restaurant as a kitchen help. You can watch the first episode that aired last week through this link.

When it was the shop owner and a few employees things were simpler. But as organizations have grown it is easy for those above floor level to lose touch. While I was at Disney there was a special program that allowed middle and upper managers to shadow a front line employee for a day. Such a program should be developed and encouraged in every large scale organization. Every CEO should go undercover on a regular basis to find out what is really happening in their organization.