Undercover Boss – some great OM insights, hidden amongst the entertainment format

Channel 4 is running a new series of Undercover Boss.   Over the years I’ve watched a whole load of these, not just from the UK, but also USA and Australia.  In almost every episode, hidden in the programme’s format, there is at least one great insight into an operations management topic or issue.

In this new series, I enjoyed greatly the boss of Moss Bros finding out what happens in his stores and on his delivery rounds.  Given the nature of the business, the lack of focus on logistics was disappointing.   The CEO knew that in the suit hire business, speed and reliability were order winners.  And yet there had been no investment in his vehicle fleet for ten years, the delivery rounds were poorly organised, and paperwork was time consuming.

I think this illustrates a general point that’s worth making.  In many businesses, there are operations that range back-of-house along the supply chain to front-of-house.   Very often, the CEO has a depth of experience in one of those areas, but rarely in all.   To really run the operations well and have a gestalt of the business model, all aspects of the business need to be fully understood.

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