Judgment on the Front Line: How Smart Companies Win by Trusting Their People

Front-line employees can be your greatest asset – here’s how to tap their rich vein of insight and leadership.

GsD Summer Term 1

Survey of Customer Experience Literature

Text: Judgment on the Front Line: How Smart Companies Win by Trusting Their People

Authors: Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy

Synopsis: Front-line employees who deal directly with customers are the face of any organization. Judgment on the Front LineNot only do they have the most impact on how a brand is perceived, but they are also the most valuable source of insight into what customers want and how to give it to them.

Unfortunately, as management experts Chris DeRose and Noel M. Tichy explain, most organizations don’t know how to evaluate the risk of giving employees more autonomy. Many of those who are willing to try haven’t even invested resources in ensuring that-once the shackles are off-front-line employees make good judgments.

Building the Front Line-Focused Organization

  • Step 1: Connect Front Line to the Customer – senior leaders set expectations for how the front line connects with customers.
  • Step 2: Teach People to Think for Themselves – the front line needs a method and language for solving complex issues.
  • Step 3: Experiment to Implement – frontline personnel see opportunities to create new products and services.
  • Step 4: Break Down the Hierarchy – liberating frontline capacity provides more time for thinking and innovation.
  • Step 5: Invest in Frontline Capability – failure to get the right talent will undo even the best efforts to create a front-line focused organization.

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.

About the authors

Noel M. Tichy is the author of Judgment, Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will and many other business bestsellers. He is a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and advises CEOs around the world.

Chris DeRose has consulted and taught around the world with companies such as Royal Dutch/Shell, Ford Motor Company, Agilent, 3M and HP.


Guestology – the art and science of knowing and understanding your guests – is a term originated by Bruce Laval of the Walt Disney Company. The use of GsD is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that organizations who really want to understand and deliver a WOW Guest Experience need to study the best practices and principles in use today, and then adapt them to the context of their own environment.

the GsD (Doctor of Guestology) journey: Summer 2013


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