Going undercover: in search of reality

Going undercover: in search of reality

Last night’s ‘Undercover Boss’ on C4 featured Eleanor Kelly, chief executive of Southwark Council. Hit by massive budget cuts, she wanted to find out how services, residents and staff have been affected.

She hoped that standing side by side with her front-line workers would lead to new ways of thinking. How could the council improve, while doing more with less? Like other bosses before her, she acknowledged that looking at plans on paper in the office is one thing, but in the real world, on the ground, it is very different.

She spent a week working alongside care workers, housing officers and street sweepers and saw a reality and authenticity that she probably wouldn’t glimpse if she talked to staff as their chief exec, using the usual internal comms systems.

Returning to her real role at the end of the week, she spoke of reviewing plans. Struck by the loyalty and dedication of her staff, she seemed genuinely inspired and moved.

She said staff need more recognition. Staff said how nice it is to be appreciated.

Her most interesting realisation, though, was that her front-line workers particularly those with many long years of service have experience, insight, perspective and passion that is being wasted. She talked about drawing them in and involving them in planning and service development.

It will be interesting to see how she does this and whether she manages to actually involve, not just consult.

If you’re keen to find out more about genuine involvement in your organisation, talk to our Participation Agency team.