Do CEOs and other senior management executives really know what’s happening out there “on the ground”? And how important is it that they do, anyway?
As contentious as it may be, I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that CEOs and other C-suite executives often know very little of what goes on in their businesses “out there” at “street” and stakeholder level.
Further, I contend it’s vitally important that they actually do acquaint themselves at a much deeper and more detailed level with the experience either enjoyed or endured by their customers / clients or other stakeholders.
In my “day job”, I’ve evaluated many a proposal put forward by a B2B (Business to Business) or B2G (Business to Government) organisation for a big-ticket procurement. So while my articles for this blog normally deal with B2C (Business 2 Consumer) issues, this one’s going to convey a strong message for the B2B and B2G sector/s.
The Reality’s A Far Cry from the Glossy ‘Brochureware’
I find it ironic hypocrisy when presented – for evaluation – with a commercial proposal produced by a company I know full well to give its customers and stakeholders exactly the reverse type of experience that it claims to in its glossy, brochureware-worded bid documentation.
One particularly glaring example comes to mind. At a temporary office I rented in an inner city suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, I witnessed some horrendous “community relations” by one of that country’s tier one constructors.
Workers from this company treated the local neighbourhood with complete contempt: Notices of major roadworks were sent out with more than a one-month window of possibility for the potential start date. Workers parked their trucks in front of tiny row cottages’ front windows, playing hip hop loudly, such that anyone could be forgiven for assuming a street party was underway. The same workers antagonised residents who asked them to turn their radios down or move their trucks.
In another account, my own book designer complained to me that she’d been forced to take an alternative route to work after being leered at and heckled with sexual overtones, by the same company’s workers when she walked down her street.
In yet another account, again, the same company caused ongoing, serious loss of earnings to several retail and hospitality-related businesses in a nearby commercial area with its lack of consideration for those enterprises’ customer-facing activities. A “customer liaison officer” proved of no use whatsoever – her typical response to fundamental and critical questions such as “How long will the works be going on?” being: “I don’t actually know.”
The same customer liaison officer purportedly essentially bribed a young boy who’d injured himself on carelessly untended roadworks debris, with icecream and other treats in a neighbouring café – an obvious exchange for his goodwill and silence over the incident.
Show Me What’s In Your Sandwich
Not long before this, I’d witnessed further unsavoury acts, again, by employees of the same company.
Travelling to Dunedin, two female workers (supposedly) managing traffic, were more intent on sharing their incoming text messages with each other. One treated those queued vehicles close enough to see, with an open-mouthed display of the contents of her sandwich – which she ultimately threw into the bushes on the side of the road.
Astounding contempt both for the public, in my view.
Bullshit . . . Plain & Simple
And yet . . . when I see bids tabled by the likes of this organisation, this documentation unfailingly waxes lyrical about its flawless and “unprecedented community relations record”.
Does it matter? Does “fact” matter? Again, I contend that it does.
It matters at the level of the integrity both of the broader organisation and of the senior executives themselves. If the business community is to evolve to a standard at which we operate on truth rather than advertising and marketing homilies, then CEOs and their senior management cohorts should start becoming a lot more proactive, and a lot more truth-seeking, in their efforts to determine exactly what happens out there in the worlds of their customers and stakeholders.
Unless and until they do, the ultimate responsibility for the glossed-over, and often untrue, claims about their organisations’ performance at ground level, rests with them.