Knowing "the business" - the perennial debate

“Knowing the business” seems to be the main attribute of great IT leaders and something that the vast majority of the managers I talk to as essential to succeed. But how do you get to know the organisation you work for?
Many senior IT professionals are able to work close to other managers from other business areas and therefore get an appreciation of the overall priorities. Many even sit on the board. Others remain marginalised by their own employers or choose to remain in the ‘basement’.
Regardless of their situation, every IT manager or professional trying to work its way up should be able to go back to the floor and gain knowledge of the pressures business users are under. But it doesn’t always work that way – for a number of reasons, ranging from scarcity of resources due to the recession to the fact that the organisation is simply not geared up to allow “the techies” to do things such as manning tills, for example. 
I was discussing the topic with Mike Sackman, chief information officer at hospitality group Mitchells & Butlers a couple of days ago. Every week, Sackman spends a day at one of the M&B outlets and considers that to be essential to his job. 
According to Sackman, his team follows the same practices. He added that many organisations send their IT staff to the frontline once a year and dismissed the practice as “a public relations move” , which only serves to perpetuate the much talked about IT-business gap.
What is your opinion? Should organisations enforce more involvement with operational issues and get closer to the people using the systems it supports? To me it seems like a no-brainer. 
See below a one-minute video with Sackman where he discusses the issue (filmed at a branch of M&B’s All Bar One pub chain in central London).

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