Should You Go Undercover? 5 Reasons Why You Should!

After watching the premier of CBS' Undercover Boss after the Super Bowl, we're left here at Pathos Leadership Group wondering why more leaders don't go "undercover" to identify first-hand what problems really are being faced day-in and day-out in their organizations. In case you missed it, the Undercover Boss premise features a senior executive at a major corporation, who for one week works incognito in his/her own company as a newly-hired entry-level worker, to find out how the company really works (including the impact of "corporate policy") and identify some of the unsung heroes among the workers.

Here are five reasons why if you are a leader, you should schedule an undercover session ASAP:
  1. Find Inefficiencies - We'd all like to think that our operations are running optimally. Unfortunately, even though all the reports in the world say that we are, there's still room for improvement. For example, one business owner that we worked with had a fleet of delivery trucks. While he believed that the delivery drivers were extremely honest, and the GPS systems he installed verified that they were working hard, until he actually went on ride-n-drives with them did he discover there was a lot more upside to the efficiency story than he had been reading about and being told.

  2. Production Bottlenecks - By working on the assembly line, production line, sales call routine, paperwork shuffle, etc. you'll see first-hand where production is bottlenecking. Most importantly, you can assess exactly what is causing the bottleneck. Is it that your associates don't have the right skills, tools, numbers, etc.?

  3. Human Capital Deployment - The adage "people are our most important asset" seems to be overstated yet underrated in the workplace. With organizations attempting to do more with less and less, the opportunity exists to put together a business scenario for increasing new hires when the payoff is greater than associated expenses. In other words, careful analysis can reveal if you're running the operation too lean for your own bottom-line good!

  4. Strategic Policies & Procedures - The "Ivory Tower" is a long way away from where the action happens sometimes, and perhaps the best way to see what the ramifications of your decisions are is to talk to the people they are intended for. An even better best practice would be to actively involve those that the decisions will ultimately effect in the actual decision making process.

  5. Avoid the "YES Man" Syndrome - As an Executive Coach working with leaders, I am often complemented that I ask the questions that the executive's leadership team doesn't! While I'd love to admit that I have greater subject matter expertise all the time which I can tap to provide insight from, more times than not I ask the questions that the leadership team is scared to ask. The New Orleanian saying, "If you're scared, just say you're scared!" still doesn't allow organizations' associates, regardless of level, to ask the scary questions. I've come to realize that this has more to do with job security than anything else. (Yes, retribution and retaliation are alive and well in the minds of those that should ask these difficult questions!)
Management By Walking Around (MBWA) was a leadership fad that unfortunately, seems to have come and gone. By discovering the five undercover strategies listed above, leaders should rediscover the positive gains to be had! What's stopping you from going undercover?

Reprinted with permission courtesy of
The Liberty Group