I’m a big fan of the TV show Undercover Boss, whether it is the UK, the US, Canadian or Australian versions. What I really like about the shows is that they allow leaders in senior management positions to get their hands dirty and get an unfiltered view of what life is like on the ground of their organisations for their employees and their customers.
In the UK, a new series has just kicked off and a couple of days ago I was lucky enough to catch an episode that featured Mark Goldring, the CEO of Oxfam, a leading UK charity that is fighting global poverty.
As part of this particular programme, one of the assignments that Mark took on was to join one of Oxfam’s street fundraising teams outside Liverpool Street station in London for a day to experience what life was like for them on a day to day basis.
Being a self-confessed introvert, Mark struggled to engage passing pedestrians in a conversation about donating funds to Oxfam. As a result, he only had limited success. However, in the small number of conversations that he did have, he found out that Oxfam’s donation process and their focus on regular, rather than one-off donations, was making life hard for their employees and their customers and was also jeopardizing their overall fundraising efforts. They were, in effect, stopping some of their customers from doing business with them.
The main issue was that their process didn’t allow people to make one-off donations without providing their personal details. This put off many people who just wanted to make a one-off donation and, therefore, Oxfam were missing out on a potentially large number of revenue.
Oxfam’s experience is a clear illustration of what can happen when processes are designed from an ‘inside-out’ perspective and the focus is on what the business wants to achieve and not on the interests and priorities of their different customer groups.
This is not an uncommon situation. Often, I have seen and experienced business processes that are designed and make sense from a process view or a marketers view or a finance view. But, when presented to customers or employees they don’t make sense or produce the results that the business wants.
To combat this, leaders would do well to heed Mark’s example and go out and work with, listen to, learn from and experience what their customers and their front-line employees go through on a daily basis.
Doing so will give them a very quick, very real and, hopefully, very honest insight into how their business engages and interacts with their customers, what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
This post was originally published on my Forbes column here.
I listened to a very good podcast by Dan Pink with Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.
Their basic point was that to have a good day at work you need to feel that you have progressed. So the thing a boss can do that will help their employees most is remove some of the barriers to progress, and of course you can only do that by going “back to the floor” and understanding what those barriers are.
Worth a listen http://www.danpink.com/office-hours/teresa-amabile-and-steven-kramer/
Thanks for the pointer to that podcast. Definitely one to put on my list to read/listen to.
However, I think they (and you) make a great point about the primary role of a manager – to remove obstacles. Managing in this way can also have a hugely positive impact on employee engagement too, something that Peter Hunter pointed out in this interview from last year: https://www.adrianswinscoe.com/employee-engagement-is-like-rolling-a-snowball-uphill-interview-with-peter-a-hunter/