When a restaurant owner suspects employees of not doing their jobs - whether it be stealing, lying, mistreating customers or generally doing lousy work - they call in the Mystery Diners. These Mystery Diners are undercover operatives who go into restaurants, bars and food-service establishments with hidden cameras to perform surveillance to find out what's really going on when the boss isn't around.
Here's why I hate the show and why it runs contrary to Lean behaviors:
It reinforces the wrong beliefs and behaviors
The Type X and Type Y models for employee motivation are summarized as...
Theory X assumes employees are inherently lazy and hate their jobs. As a result, an authoritarian management style is required to ensure that individuals fulfill their objectives. Workers managed this way need to be closely supervised under comprehensive systems of control. Theory X managers must rely heavily on the threat of punishment to gain compliance of employees.
Summary - Employees suck, don't trust them!
Theory Y assumes employees can be ambitious, self-motivated and exercise self-control. Theory Y managers believe that given the proper conditions, employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility, exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed.
Summary - Employees are your best asset. Help them reach their potential!
A Lean embracing manager would certainly favor Theory Y, but this show trumpets Theory X with a megaphone! It goes as far as to praise Theory X behaviors as admirable.
*Spying by camera < going to the genba
Going to the genba (the place of work) is considered a serious responsibility for Lean managers. The principles for this activity are - Go see, Ask why, Show respect. A boss on Mystery Diners, does NONE of these things. Instead they will hide behind a hidden camera waiting to catch their employees doing something wrong.
*System causes most of the problems, not individuals
(NUMMI example) <http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/how-to-change-a-culture-lessons-from-nummi/>
The assumption behind all these "interventions" is that employees are the only problems a business might have. Otherwise things would be great. But continuous improvement expert (and Lean pioneer) W. Edward Deming knew better. He suggested that over 90% of the problems in a given system (like a business) were the result of a poor system and therefore management's responsibility to improve. An excellent real life example would be the NUMMI plant in Fresno, California. This plant was shutdown by GM because it was the worst in the company and had many problems with its employees. The plant later reopened, this time
"Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
While the show seems mostly fake (and poorly scripted) it's still a problem. If an impressionable manager watchs this show they might get the wrong idea about proper management. It could reinforce misconceptions they already hold.