How to Make Your Daily Routine Build Dynamic Relationships

In 1982 a book called In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman was published. Even though it was a business book, it made quite a hit in my seminary classes as well. (Way back when, even before it became the standard practice it is today, Ralph Hardee had us reading business books!)

One of the most important lessons of that book then, and still important today, is the idea of MBWA, or Managing by Wandering Around.

With MBWA, “what you see is what you get.”

Peters, in his book The Little BIG Things, added these thoughts about MBWA:

  • Get out of your office!
  • Unplug your laptop!
  • Put your smartphone in the drawer!
  • Chat up anybody whose path you cross…especially if they are not among your normal chatees.
  • Go strolling in parts of the organization (or your neighborhood) where you normally don’t stroll.
  • Slow down.
  • Stop.
  • Chat.

There is a lot of value in putting “wandering” on your permanent formal agenda. It may sound counterintuitive, but “aimless wandering” requires strict discipline. We all fall into ruts, even in our wanderings. Same route. Same people. Same time of day. Etc. Etc. Etc. Somehow you’ve got to introduce spontaneity.

Make a pledge to “just wander” at least a half-hour each day. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you come back to the pile of work on your desk or the files open on your screen.

A podcast by Lee Cockerell, former Executive VP for Operations at Walt Disney World, put this into perspective. Before he came to Disney, he was a general manager for Marriott hotels. He made it his practice to walk every floor of his multi-story hotel 3 times per day. This allowed him to see and be seen by all three shifts. It also allowed his team to become comfortable enough to engage in conversations, and bring matters to his attention. This in turn instilled a sense of purpose and value to each employee.

This principle applies to ChurchWorld, too. I’m fortunate, as I get to see it in action every week at the Lake Norman Campus of Elevation Church in Charlotte. Our Campus Pastor, Matthew Drew, and the rest of the staff, Chad, Brennen, and Nicole, make it a part of their weekend routine. It’s not scheduled, but they can be seen circulating outside the entrance, talking with Guests and team members. You see them on the sidewalk between the building and the parking lot, smiling and welcoming everyone they see. On occasion, they even venture into the parking lots, just to check things out.

There’s plenty for them to “do” inside, but they realize the value of connecting with as many people as possible – even if only for a moment – each and every weekend.

They have refined MBWA to LBWA…


Are you the senior leader on your team? When was the last time you walked the front lines?

What are you waiting for?


The Most Important 2 Feet in Your Guest Experience

It’s the space between your Guest and your front-line Guest Experience Team member.

The interactions that take place in those 24 inches are rich with expectations – and can also be filled with missed opportunities.

In that space your front-line team members have become the face and voice of your organization.


On the 2nd day of Christmas Guest Experiences, your Guest Experience peers give to you:

The Most Important 2 Feet in Your Guest Experience

There is an idea-generating and innovation factory that remains untapped in most organizations simply because most leaders do not know how to connect the experiences and insights of their front line to solving Guest problems. – Chris DeRose, Judgment on the Front Line

How they represent themselves, what they do (or don’t do), what they say (or don’t say) – that’s the powerful human “first impression” your Guest is experiencing – and will remember.

How does that make you feel?

inspired by What’s Your Green Goldfish, by Stan Phelps

What's Your Green Goldfish

Gather Facts and Feelings – Walk the Park for a Fresh Perspective

He didn’t have a particular schedule, but his agenda was always the same: connect with and interact with as many guests and cast members as possible.

 Walt would regularly walk through the Park, looking for problems or things to improve. He was good at it and always welcomed suggestions. I copied his routine. I continually walked through the Park, looking for different things, people problems. Facts are easy to identify; I was looking for feelings that were bothering Cast Members.

Van France, founder of Disney University

Walt Disney knew the value of learning as much as possible about the front lines by spending time on the front lines.

courtesy of

courtesy of

His strategy of walking the park dates back to the construction of Disneyland. He regularly visited the construction site to assess the proportion or size of buildings. A common site was Walt squatting down and then looking up at a building from a lower angle. His determination to view the storefronts and buildings from the vantage point of children ensured that the needs of this large population of guests – an often overlooked but very influential group – were addressed.

courtesy of Disney Imagineering

courtesy of Disney Imagineering

Walt Disney never stopped looking at Disneyland from the perspective of the guest, even years after the park opened.

Van France, like Walt, favored walking the park to gather information. Often armed with his camera, Van tirelessly sought the opinions and thoughts of cast members and guests.

Bill Ross, a former manager of Disney University, says, “More than anyone I’ve ever known, Van put his ear to the ground to get ideas. He had a wide circle of friends and a strong network. If Van were with us today, he would love using social media.”

Walking the park helped Van clarify the problems and then visualize a process by which to bridge the gaps.

After the park had been open for seven years, Van realized the 1955 model of orientation and cast member training that had been so successful during Disneyland’s early years was no longer sufficient. He faced a paradox: preserving the past while preparing for the future.

Van knew that he needed to identify and preserve the components of orientation and training that had led to such heady success during Disneyland’s first seven years:

  • Friendly environment
  • Creative presentations
  • Useful content

He had to balance these fundamentals while preparing cast members – including managers – for a much more complex future, driven by the following factors:

  • Consistency – everyone must attend the new-hire orientation program
  • Systems – specific on-the-job training must follow the orientation program
  • Continuing education – supervisors and managers needed leadership and communication-skills training

The time was right for Van to build a bridge to the future of training for Disneyland. The time was right for the Disney University.


Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

Gather Facts and Feelings

In your organization, can you identify the equivalent of Van’s Four Circumstances that support walking the park and keeping in touch with the front lines? How do you apply those circumstances to gather facts and feelings from team members and Guests?

Walk the Park

  • What is the equivalent of walking the park in your organization? Who does it, and how frequently?
  • How could this strategy be improved? More people involved? More frequently?
  • If leaders aren’t walking the park, what is the excuse?
  • Walt Disney could carve time out of his day to walk the park. Why can’t every leader do that?

Mind the Gap

  • Is there a reality gap between the ideals espoused in your organization and training programs and the realities of the job?
  • How is the effectiveness of your training assessed? With what frequency?

One Foot in the Past, One Foot in the Future

  • How is the history of your organization kept alive? How could this be improved?
  • How does your organization balance history and legacy with current and future needs? Who supports this?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Disney U

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Continue the Disney U experience Thursday 4/3/14 with Be Willing to Change or Be Willing to Perish: The Birth of the Disney University

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year. 


Want to know more about learning from the front line?

The Other Side of the Coin: What Drives Front Line Team Member Engagement

Yesterday’s post approached the topic of front line engagement from the perspective of the leaders in your organization. Today, it’s time to look at the other side of the coin – your front line team members.

Involving team members in decision-making processes, enabling them to innovate, and providing the autonomy and resources to solve customer problems collectively offer frontline team members the essential elements that have been shown to drive team member satisfactions and engagement.

Research has provided many labels for the drivers of team member commitment, but authors Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy, writing in Judgment on the Front Line, summarize them as the “four C’s.”


Frontline employees want to connect their daily interactions with the customer to the achievement of larger long-term goals. This requires an understanding of strategy and customer and business objectives.


Frontline workers, like most people, want to feel empowered to make autonomous decisions and take action when necessary. There must be established boundary conditions in which employees feel free to make decision, and they must be given the training and tools to make effective judgments.


Ultimately, if employees do not feel connected to their organizations and have a sense that coworkers and managers are unconcerned with their well-being, they will not care about he organization or their job.


Work is a personal endeavor that occupies the majority of waking time for most people, so frontline employees need the opportunity to exercise their individual thought and creativity and invest their own personality in their work.

The concern and trust that senior leaders exhibit for all team members in a front-line focused organization translates into strong culture and improved work environments.

That’s something both sides can agree on!

Trust helps you move quickly. It increases your speed. When it’s absent, you can see it – more checks, controls, and processes. That’s bureaucracy.

Randall Stephenson, Chairman and CEO, AT&T

ChurchWorld Frontline Facts

Front Line Teams are uniquely positioned to create value in your organization

  • Generating value – your team can offer new ideas based on first-hand dialogue with Guests about their needs
  • Solve problems – when your frontline team is free to exercise its judgment to make good decisions for the Guest, they can solve problems on the spot
  • Avert crises – frontline teams know where the trouble spots are, and can help your organization avoid disasters by providing early warnings


Part of an occasional series translating the best of Customer Experience in the Corporate World into Guest Experiences for ChurchWorld

Adapted from Judgment on the Front Line, Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy

Undercover Boss May Make Good TV, But It’s a Lousy Way to Keep in Touch With Your Front Line Team

On Undercover Boss, the brilliant CEO goes undercover on the front lines of his company to learn just what’s going on, and how he is going to make it better.


In the shows that I’ve seen, it’s more like a Three Stooges comedy from my childhood, only this time there’s only one stooge – the Boss.

Without fail, the Boss learns that he lacks the skills, intelligence, and experience required to keep up with his tasks. His coworkers and supervisors, though clearly frustrated with him, try and try again to train him.

The end result? Big Boss CEO, now humbled by his front line, vows to make changes to the policies and procedures which will improve his team’s working conditions, performance, personal lives, and, by the way, maybe even his bottom line.

I’m not too cynical of Undercover Boss – just thinking there has to be a better way for the CEO or senior leadership team of any organization to find out just what’s happening on the front lines.

If CEOS and senior leaders don’t create routines for understanding customer needs through the eyes of frontline workers, they run the risk of creating strategies that can’t be put into operational practice. Building a business model that is aligned with customer needs is only the beginning – once these needs are identified, the leadership team must work backward from the moment of truth when their team is face to face with the customer.

Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy, writing in Judgment on the Front Line, show just how to make that happen. They don’t advocate that CEOs try to do the jobs of their front line workers (like Undercover Boss). Instead, DeRose and Tichy think that leadership teams must design and build a front-line focused organization. They begin at the top:

Five Responsibilities of Leaders in a Front Line Focused Organization

  • Define a Customer-Based Vision – set the vision and define the strategy based in part on observations, feedback, and learnings from the field
  • Develop a Front Line Focused Culture – create a culture of front line focus with a deep respect for the needs and experience of the front line
  • Obsess over Talent – while deeply respecting their entire organization, leaders know they will win only by having the best talent and right kind of leadership at the front line
  • Define the Judgment Playing Field – leaders ensure that front line teams are equipped with the right resources to make good judgments on behalf of the organization and in the interest of the customer
  • Live on the Line – leaders need to go where the action is, a reality check at a deeper level than just an annual fly by appearance

Now isn’t that better than any episode of Undercover Boss?

My name is Herve Humler and I am the president of Ritz-Carlton… and I am a very important person. But you are more important than I am. You are the heart and soul of this building.

Herve Humler, addressing hotel staff shortly before the grand opening of Ritz-Carlton’s Hong Kong property

ChurchWorld Frontline Facts

Strong leadership is required to unleash the front line

  • Senior leaders use their authority to create the architecture and support systems
  • The organization’s top team must stay directly connected to those in the field
  • Information from the front line should be used to define and refines strategy

Building a front line-focused organization is a process

  • An integrative framework is needed to replace a collage of initiatives
  • The process helps whether starting from scratch or rebuilding a decades-old institution

Part of an occasional series translating the best of Customer Experience in the Corporate World into Guest Experiences for ChurchWorld

Adapted from Judgment on the Front Line, Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy

The Frontline Innovation Factory

If you’ve spent anytime on Amazon, you are probably familiar with their recommendation feature – you know, the bar of products across your screen with the title “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”…

It has been very successful to say the least – many shoppers, having found what they are looking for, are delighted to look at other items that compliment their find. (Especially me, when it comes to books!)

When the engineer who developed the idea, Greg Linden, developed a prototype and took it to his boss, he was expressly prohibited from proceeding further with the project.

Wow – Talk about a missed opportunity!

In the vast majority of other, larger, older organizations, the idea would have been killed right then and there. But, as we all know, Amazon was (and is) different.

Customer centricity has been deeply ingrained in Amazon’s culture from the outset. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has been known to leave an empty seat open at a conference table to remind all attendees that they should consider the seat occupied by their customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Amazon’s overriding respect for the customer gave Linden the freedom to proceed with his trial – even over the objections of his senior vice president. The results were so clear and irrefutable that the feature was fast-tracked, and shopping cart recommendations, as we know them, were born.

That’s the power of the Front Line.

In my experience innovation can only come from the bottom. Those closest to the problem are in the best position to solve it. I believe any organization that depends on innovation must embrace chaos. Loyalty and obedience are not your tools; you must use measurement and objective debate to separate the good from the bad.

– Greg Linden, former developer and engineer,


ChurchWorld Frontline Facts

The front line is the richest untapped source of ideas and innovation

  • Those closest to the Guests most often understand their needs best
  • Frontline leaders have the know-how to solve operational problems

Winning organizations embrace the paradox of creativity and control

  • Leaders control by setting context and boundaries
  • Leaders creatively unleash their front line by teaching them to make judgments


Part of an occasional series translating the best of Customer Experience in the Corporate World into Guest Experiences for ChurchWorld

Adapted from Judgment on the Front Line, Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy