Lately I've ripped "Undercover Boss" as "a despicable show," and I've tweaked Walgreens' great old employee publication Walgreen World for putting out a less-than-satisfying employee annual report.
So Walgreens editors go and put an "Undercover Boss"-type article in Walgreen World.
And, of course, it works well.
The bosses weren't actually undercover. "Nearly all corporate directors and vice presidents worked in a store for a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas," writes Walgreens' editor Iris Iglarsh to introduce the piece, which consists of first-person testimonies from three of those execs.
"It took me three hours to do an inventory check on half the store. I felt pretty good about that until I learned that other team members usually do the entire store in two hours," writes Rich Lesperance, director of online marketing in E-commerce. "Working in a store requires tons of concentration, even though there are a number of interruptions like truck deliveries or the arrival of the Coke rep."
One of his discoveries, a thing far too un-sexy for TV but just the kind of insight that helps make organizations work better, was that Corporate's demand that store employees gather e-mail addresses from customers is no small favor.
"My store visit made me realize that ... we have to make [gathering e-mails] easy for store team members who are constantly juggling tasks. But now that I know [store manager] Alpash, I suspect he'll be a big help in figuring out how we can work together. After all, his store is right in my neighborhood."
Every company ought to do a thing like this—in fact, why not make it a regular feature? One executive visits one front-line location every month, with the communicator in tow to record the event, on video and in prose.
In the process, the exec gets down with the peeps, the communicator gets down with the peeps, the communicator and the exec spend time together, and everybody in the organization benefits from the interaction.
I know: It's not realistic, Dave.
Screw it: The first communicator who pulls it off three months in a row gets a free Hard-Ass Communication Vehicle Analysis® from Writing Boots.