Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Block of Cheese

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch one of my favorite TV shows, The West Wing. This show is extremely well written. It has great storylines, engaging dialogue, and fascinating, complex characters. There is a theme that appears several times in the series called “Big Block of Cheese Day”. This theme is first introduced in a Season 1 Episode called "The Crackpots and These Women."

According to The West Wing President, Andrew Jackson was so determined to make sure that the country belonged to the people that he would place a 2 ton block of cheese in the front room of the White House. People in need could then come to the White House, get some food, and talk to the President and lawmakers. This idea was fascinating to Leo McGarry (White House Chief of Staff on The West Wing) and so on a regular basis he would have what he called “Big Block of Cheese Day” where all of the White House staffers would take appointments with people who would not normally have a chance to meet with people from the White House.

In the TV show, the staffers hate this assignment because they believe it is an absolute waste of time. But they end up meeting with these people who would not otherwise be worthy of their attention and invariably they learn something that they had not expected. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all of the ideas were good ones, but the key was that the White House staffers began thinking of things in a new way.

In business, it's often easy to forget to give attention to your most valuable asset, your employees. And just like the people in the TV show who have interesting ideas that they never get to share with anyone. Your employees have a bird's eye view of what is happening in your business and they often know what is working and what is not. But your employees don’t always have a mechanism to pass that information along. Or, they don’t have a mechanism that they trust to pass it along.

One cause of an Energy Crisis in the workplace is employees who don’t believe they have the opportunity to contribute fully to the organization. And sometimes we get so consumed in dealing with big people and big issues that we forget to listen to the people who know the most; the people who see what is happening in the business day in and day out. Like Andrew Jackson we should be concerned that we don’t lose touch with those who we can serve, and who can serve us best. And maybe we should schedule our own “Big Block of Cheese” day.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems LLC

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