I normally hate reality TV, which I am certain, is anything but real. However, I tripped over an episode of Undercover Boss featuring the CEO Joe DePinto of 7-Eleven. For those unfamiliar with this latest TV fare, a CEO goes undercover as an employee in the front lines of a major corporation. Do the guys at the top making decisions really have a concept of the day to day happenings at “ground level”?
Back in my MBA days, I would have referred to this technique as a modified version of “Management by Walking Around”. Essentially, this means the manager is involved (and visible) at the ground level. He or she will listen and talk to employees and be generally aware of the front line action, especially at customer level. I know management theories come and go like the tides and MBWA has been around forever, but I do like what this process does for a manager regardless of the business entity.
Often library management and librarians tend to shy away from business models in discussion of day to day operations of a library or even in a management philosophy, but this TV show does highlight that customer point of service really is what the business is all about. Libraries have a similar point of service. So what do we take away from this? Do you as a manager or department head know what your people do on daily basis? Try these questions:
What are the major pet peeves of your staff? (Trust me you are in denial if you think there aren’t any!)
Who are the “regulars”? What do these regulars like or dislike about the library?
Have you ever sat out in the public areas and listened and watched?
Of course one can “say” they have open door communication or are in touch with the staff or patrons. What behaviors do you practice, on a regular basis that supports good communication? Walking around only gets you so far before you need to synthesize what you have learned into action.
Go forth and walk around your library!