Full disclosure: I had the idea for this strip while playing Modern Warfare 2. Surprise surprise, it only took hearing the phrase "Target neutralized" for 4 straight months before having an idea come from it. So, in order to come up with my next idea, I plan on listening to the "Grease" soundtrack until I think of  a joke involving Greased Lightning.

I'd be looking forward to that, if I were you.

I did something unusual today, and I feel it's worth discussing; I actively sought out a full 43 minutes of reality television with the express purpose of watching it. CBS premiered "Undercover Boss" last night after the Superbowl, and since the bar I watched the game in turned the music back on after the Saints won I had to wait until today to actually consume the show.

Here is my conclusion: I love the premise (or, more specifically, the notion that high-level brass should be aware of their companies at a micro level), but the execution will be nigh unwatchable. As far as I can tell, this is the misson statement of the show:

  • Show that these executives have humility by forcing them to do lower-middle-class work for an entire week.
  • Show that they're human and that they really care for their employees. Or at least, the ones who have them over for dinner and regale them with their woes.
  • Castigate the middle management that was stupid enough to implement the COO's productivity-enhancing policies.
That's what the show is about: assigning blame. That, and "Animal House"-style titles at the end where we see that everything worked out for everyone, everywhere, and we can go back to feeling good about stuff and buying McDonald's for the kids' dinner.

Each installment of this documentary (it's not technically a television show: since no one that appears on it is getting paid, it's actually a formatted documentary) is going to be about feeling good rather than doing good. It has to be, because doing good at the expense of productivity means someone will lose their job. Period.

These huge companies have boards of directors, and if they think a particular CEO or COO isn't getting the job done as efficiently as possible, they will find someone who can.

Now, of course I find compelling the story of the woman who's doing the job of three people and she supports her family and her husband's family and they live in a house that they're going to lose because the bank has reassessed the house and their mortgage is probably a variable rate, and because the COO has discovered this he "has to do something."

Well, okay. But you're only doing something for her specifically. What about the other 50,000 people who work for you that are going to lose their dream houses this year? You're not going to raise their salaries, because you can't.

So these token gestures; we'll give you a raise (but not the other employees at your level. Just you.), we'd like to have you come and speak to upper-management (not that they'll listen. I just think you have a positive attitude about vacuuming poop out of port-o-potties), and we'd like you to form a task-force to figure out how to make the company more female-friendly (why her? Why not hire someone who actually knows how to implement useful changes?) - these gestures are made to create compelling television, not actually change the way business is done.

Henry Ford said he didn't want to sell a car that everyone on his assembly line couldn't afford. Jeff Bezoz, of Amazon.com, will go and ship products from the Amazon warehouses. Being involved with the people that work for you, and seeing them as people instead of assets, is a good thing. Forcing high-level execs to experience their companies as other people do, either as customers or low-level employees or both, could lead to some really interesting and creative problem solving.

Or, they might micro-manage their way into unemployment. I don't know. That's why I'm interested to see what happens with this show, and if it actually changes our corporate culture or if it's just another chance for people to vicariously punish those whom they perceive to be their persecutors.