This is a story about a new policy at Door Dash, and a leadership truth that goes back at least as far as Shakespearean times.
Let’s tackle the Shakespearean part first. It comes from Henry V, which Shakespeare wrote in 1600, and which people might know even if they’ve never read Shakespeare because it contains the famous “St. Crispin’s Day” speech.
There is an earlier part of that play, however, in which the king disguises himself and walks among his troops, thus letting him talk with them and learn a bit about what they truly think of him as a leader, before going into battle.
Think of it perhaps as the earliest known precursor to the TV show, Undercover Boss.
Now, whether you’re a 21st-century business leader, or else a fictionalized version of a 15th century English king, this kind of scene reveals an essential truth: The bigger a team that a leader leads, and the more successful he or she ultimately becomes, the harder it can be to get a sense of critical facts on the ground.
With that in mind, let’s go to the announcement that DoorDash made recently that has some employees reacting incredulously — but that most businesses should probably copy.
In short, starting next month, nearly all DoorDash employees — from the lowest-ranking software engineer to the company’s CEO, Tony Xu, will be required to do at least one food delivery run per month during the year.
The program, which was announced to employees and confirmed by media outlets, is called WeDash. It was originally set up during 2018 as a charitable effort, apparently, but put on hold during the pandemic.
For employees who don’t drive, or have other reasons not to want to do an actual delivery, they will have other options like shadowing customer service agents.
Eventually, the company also wants to launch something called WeMerchant, which would have employees shadowing or otherwise getting a look through the eyes of the merchants who use DoorDash.
On social media site Blind, one DoorDash employee (Blind apparently confirmed their status to other media outlets like Marketwatch), who is not at all happy with the idea of the new requirement started a discussion that now has over 1,500 comments.
“You need to dash once a month. WILL BE TRACKED IN PERFORMANCE REVIEWS!! What the actual [bleep]? I didn’t sign up for this, there was nothing in the offer letter/job description about this.”
From there, the reaction was mixed, with some people against the policy and others saying it was a smart idea, and maybe even ridiculous for highly paid employees to complain about it.
“Seriously? They’re paying you 400k and want you to deliver food once a month so you can actually experience your product and you’re complaining? What’s wrong with you?”
Stepping back, it’s clear that making an effort to experience your product or service from your ultimate customers’ perspectives takes time, and that doing it right requires buy-in from everyone you’re asking to do it.
But, in the long run, it’s likely to be very much worth it.
Besides gaining a bit of understanding of how your customers feel about your product, you’re more likely to discover customer-facing problems that they’d never tell you about.
Even things like realizing that the UX design for customers isn’t as good as it should be, or that you’re not as easy to find among your competitors as you’d like to be, from the point of view of a customer who might seek out your business.
Perhaps it doesn’t have to be as strict as DoorDash’s apparent use-it-once-a-month-or-else policy, but finding some way to ensure that your top leaders and behind-the-scenes team see things from your other stakeholders’ points of view seems like a smart bet.
It was good enough for Shakespeare; it’s good enough for DoorDash. There’s a good chance it’s a good idea for your business, too.