In a post at the Harvard Business Review today, Bob Frisch makes the argument that it’s time to bring back the executive dining room. His argument is not one of elitism, but of allowing the senior executives to resolve issues more effectively.
But the executive dining room at Dial served an important function. It provided a critical communications nexus for the organization, where issues were raised and resolved in a rapid, fluid, and informal way. Those lunches were a critical organizational lubricant, reducing friction and allowing the gears to turn much more smoothly.
He goes on to say that mixed dining rooms are the dominant model for today, but that they don’t serve their intended purpose.
Take a look at who eats in your corporate cafeteria, and whom they’re eating with. If you see a lot of senior vice presidents sitting down for meals with junior executives who aren’t their subordinates — not as part of some special program, but just sitting down and eating lunch — I’d be surprised. A single dining facility may be more democratic in principle, but in practice it just spurs senior executives to retreat to their offices and conference rooms.
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