I happened across a copy of Fast Company magazine today, and inside found this interesting article about a British TV show in which corporate CEOs are invited to spend time doing a low-level job within their company and are filmed while doing so.
You might not think this would be a hit, but the show Back to the Floor is in its fifth season and is a prime-time ratings success. As with all so-called "reality" television, I suspect its anything-can-happen potential contributes to its winning formula:
Not every story has a happy ending. Some suspect that Dino Adriano's departure from the top job at Sainsbury's owed something to his poor showing on Back to the Floor. Millionaire restaurateur Luke Johnson, head of the popular British chain Belgo, decided that he'd peeled one onion too many for a moody chef, ripped off his microphone, told producers to "Shove your program!" and refused to allow the camera to keep filming.
Bosses, though, often return to the boardroom ready to right wrongs. Take the Radisson Edwardian managing director who nearly halved the prices of his smallest rooms or the head of Wedgwood, who sued the supplier of the robots that were dropping his cups. Even Johnson agreed to hire six more chefs.
Almost without exception, CEOs learn a lesson in communication. "We find people at the heart of every organization who know exactly what's right and what's wrong with it," says [producer Robert] Thirkell. "But between them and the bosses is a layer of people -- those whose careers depend on sanitizing that information. Bosses are always surprised at how much knowledge exists further down the ladder."