The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CEO of Uber spent time driving for the company under an assumed name. He filled out the forms like any prospective driver and drove around customers.
Not surprisingly, some of it went well, and other parts not so much so. He discovered numerous ways the company made things unnecessarily difficult for drivers.
It’s a perspective he never would have had if he had not invested the time to drive a few miles in their shoes.
The founder and former CEO of JetBlue, David Neelemen, used to do something similar. He regularly budgeted time to fly on the company’s planes just to get to talk directly with passengers and crews.
Closer to home, longtime Health Care Compliance Association board member Jenny O’Brien—when she was chief compliance officer at Allina Hospitals and Clinics—was faced with some challenges involving ambulance teams. To better understand what was happening, she spent an evening working the night shift riding along with them. She saw firsthand the flow of their shift and how the compliance requirements her team originally proposed did not fit. Afterward, she not only formed new relationships with key business partners but quickly realized a new strategy was needed. What seemed reasonable on paper was simply not practical in practice and would not have been successful.
Shadowing an employee for a day or two in a department with compliance issues will likely illuminate day-to-day realities you can’t see in a risk assessment.
Less formally, you can make it a practice to ask people in casual encounters how it’s going. Is the training on point or irrelevant? Are the processes or procedures easy or hard to follow? Do they know where they can find answers to questions?
At first, many employees will likely be hesitant to speak up. Over time—and if compliance acts on what it hears and sees—several things will likely occur. First, the workforce will recognize that the compliance team is responsive and not some distant voice from on high. Second, they will see that compliance cares about them and isn’t about getting in the way but designing programs that fit within their work.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the compliance team will have a much better understanding of how it can be truly effective within the organization.
1 Preetika Rana, “Your Uber Driver ‘Dave K’ Is Arriving Soon. He Might Be the CEO,” Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/story/your-uber-driver-dave-k-is-arriving-soon-he-might-be-the-ceo-c5bf4dcc.
2 Arlyn Tobias Gajilan and Jennifer Kenney, “The Amazing JetBlue While Most Airlines Are Struggling, JetBlue Seems Poised for a Rapid Ascent. Does Its Highflying Found David Neelman Have the Vision to Build His Customer-Friendly Starup into a Major-League Airline?” CNN Money, May 1, 2003, https://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/fsb_archive/2003/05/01/343395/index.htm.