A Little Respect for the Front-line

Friday, February 27, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt

Not to say executives and middle managers are not important, but the people I really care about are the people that service me at the bank, grocery store, retail shop, barber, restaurant, etc.  I rarely see an executive or manager in my daily dealings.  Those people that transact I transact business are important to me and they can make my day really good or really bad.  Most interactions are good as long as they are simple, although I have some really frustrating encounters at times.  I never blame the front-line person because I know they are only as good (or bad) as the systems they are placed in.

When I receive poor service, I am often looked at by the front-line person with a sense of sorry but my system didn’t train me to deal with your demand, or my system doesn’t allow me to handle your problem because of policy, legal issues, outside my pay grade, etc.  A lot of people get mad at this front-line worker, but systems thinkers know better. 

I often listen to advertisements of how much my business is valued, but ultimately it is the front-line worker that I judge the value of the service on.  I want service delivered in one-stop fashion, timely, easily and any other criteria I demand as a customer.

So, during these tough times Mr./Ms. Executive, remember I value the front-line worker more than you.  When you start your corporate cost reduction, I would much rather see you sacrifice than be missing my favorite service provider or I may find somewhere else to go conduct my business.  I would like to see leadership development and leadership strategy from your organization that manages your organization as a system (systems thinking).  Not the worn out ideas used in scientific management theory that don’t allow me to get the service from the front-line service person I value.

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