I Watched 10 Episodes Of Undercover Boss And Now I Am A Communist
OK, maybe that's a bit much, but I'm definitely not going to eat at Boston Market.
I imagine if you are the CEO of a massive conglomerate like General Electric, you probably don’t have perfect, complete information committed to memory about the manufacturing processes of every single item your company produces. A really huge company makes thousands of products. Their supply chains will span the globe, and some of the products are not significant drivers of revenue. You probably have a lot of details about the most important products and then cursory knowledge about the less important ones. If you are going to be asked about fidget spinners, someone who works for you will give you a one-sheet piece of paper with the details that you will review before the meeting.
This is totally reasonable for huge companies with zillions of employees spread out across the world, making hundreds of different things for thousands of different markets.
And then there are companies like Dippin’ Dots. Dippin’ Dots makes one thing: Dippin’ Dots. It makes them at a handful of facilities and then ships them around the country and into select foreign markets.
If you are the long-tenured CEO of Dippin’ Dots, there is no good reason for you to be anything but an expert on every aspect of the Dippin’ Dot production process. You should know where the ingredients are sourced, you should know how they are combined and turned into Dippin’ Dots, and you should know how they are packed and delivered to vendors.
Especially since the entire thing about Dippin’ Dots is that they are novelty ice cream made with an elaborate, trademarked method. The process of making them is more important than a company that makes normal ice cream.
To the extent that there are complicated logistics that a CEO of Dippin’ Dots could be forgiven for not knowing every detail about, they probably have to do with the last leg of Dippin’ Dots’ distribution and sale in all these different locations. You presumably know the basic gist of all of it—how theme parks handle their bulk orders and individual pricing decisions, for example—but you probably are not deeply familiar with every aspect that goes into getting the Dippin’ Dots in the customers’ hands—every particular theme park’s placement of every particular Dippin’ Dots cart.
These are reasonable assumptions to make about the chief executive officer of Dippin’ Dots. They are also totally wrong, at least if the show Undercover Boss is to be believed.
Every episode of this show has the same format: some high-ranking executive at a company goes undercover to see how the entry-level employees do their jobs. They visit three locations and shadow three different employees. The employees are almost all hard-working, wonderful, passionate people who love the company but tell the undercover boss about one or two easily rectified problems (like the drive-thru intercom needing to be upgraded or something). These employees are selected by the show’s producers and always have some compelling personal story that often involves heartbreak and loss. They tell the CEO about how hard it is to juggle their responsibilities to their family, pay their rent, get dental work for their kids, etc… The CEO is shaken by this realization and, at the end, tells the employee that the company will pay for their night school tuition or something. So important is this bit to the show that the money for these nice acts of kindness actually mostly comes from the show’s budget.