”Who Cares About the Frontline?”

Headquarters are typically a very busy place. Flocking with people in suits walking fast with their hands full of their laptop, notebook, paper. If possible at all, they also balance a cup of coffee or tea. Meetings are being held, findings and numbers documented, stored in the company SharePoint, and distributed to long mailing lists. Inboxes are full of e-mails, and the post-it notes with to-do’s visible on all tables. All runs according to structure and plan… sometimes even as displayed in the annual wheel.

I am sure you know this reality!

Then enter the frontline staff. They are out there in the real and messy world. Where customers want an answer here and now and where they demand flexibility. Where the organization delivers on its purpose to its clients, and where unexpected challenges, issues, and questions pop-up all the time. Sometimes the frontline staff doesn’t know the answers to all the questions they get from the customers. But they know they need to ask headquarters when they don’t know. So, they do!

Then the silence comes…

no response… nothing… just silence… as if nobody cares about the frontline.

Headquarters Is So Busy That They Forget the Frontline

“Why?” – you might ask. In Innovisor, we have seen this in so many industries by now that I have almost started to treat this as a universal law.

In pharma companies, in event management companies, in car dealerships, in energy companies. In almost all the companies we have worked with in the past many years.

The people in the headquarters are so busy collaborating with their colleagues in the headquarters that they forget… or maybe even ignore… their colleagues in the frontline.

It has never made any sense to me. It is the frontline that is ultimately securing the profits for the organization. They ought to be the kings. When they have questions, everybody should do whatever they can to help them… FAST!

Unfortunately, it does not happen.

Parkinson’s Law on Bureaucracy From 1957
Might Explain Why

Recently, I then came across a very old law from 1957 written by C.N. Parkinson. It says:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

It is the same thing that happens in the headquarters. People are spending all their time on tasks they have invented to lead and govern the organization. And when they are ‘interrupted’ in their carefully planned work by the frontline staff, they ignore it.

It is almost human nature.

What Can You Do to Improve the Connectivity Between
Frontline and Headquarters?

We should still fight it though. There is too much value wasted if we do not try to improve the connectivity between the frontline and the headquarters.

Here are the six steps I would recommend if you want to succeed in improving the current connectivity between your frontline and your headquarters. It might be the most important and valuable cultural change, you have undertaken yet in your organization.

  • Document how well your frontline is connected to headquarters
  • Use that insight to build awareness and discipline around helping the frontline succeed
  • Ensure leadership act as role models
  • Make the right experts in the headquarters visible and accessible to the frontline
  • Build trusting relations between the frontline and the right people
  • Track your progress with connecting frontline to headquarters

Have fun!

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