Senior executives are often removed from the day-to-day realities affecting the vast majority of a company's employees. This disconnect is caused by a number of issues, including:
(a) the several layers of management that separate executives from front-line staff;
(b) the physical separation between home office and the field;
(c) the highly orchestrated, scripted and superficial nature of the typical field visit.
On a regular basis (e.g. each year), senior executives go under cover as an entry-level employee (or potentially mid-level manager) in his company.
The executive alters his/her appearance and assumes an alias (alongside a fictional background). He spends one week undercover working in various business units and functions of the company. The executive would take up a different job and location each day. For each job, the executive would paired up with another employee (or employees) to "learn the ropes."
At the end of the week undercover, the executive reaches out to the employees that he/she came into contact with to (a) reveal his/her identity, (b) share the lessons he/she learned during their time together, and (c) engage on what can be done to improve the satisfaction and productivity of front-line staff.
This hack gives executives a direct, unfiltered view of how company strategy, policy and norms impact employees, and how employees perceive their jobs and the company overall. Used wisely, this knowledge can help identify major blind spots for senior management.
Start with one undercover experiment, for a couple of days. Gauge success based on lessons the executive learned and the response from employees directly impacted.
This hack is inspired by:
King Abdullah of Jordan, who has a track record of disguising himself to verify first-hand how his subjects are being treated.
Undercover Boss, a television series on CBS produced by Studio Lambert. It is based on the 2009 British Channel 4 series of the same name.