Monday, March 29, 2010

Teaching through Demonstration on Kitchen Nightmares

A frequent tactic for improving restaurant quality on the TV show Kitchen Nightmares is to reduce the number of items on the menu. On the Anna Vincenzo’s episode the restaurant had an overwhelming 180 items. It might seem obvious that if you simply explained that to the owner the the point would be made, but often that isn’t the case. Gordon Ramsey went to the effort of having the kitchen staff prepare just one order of each item on the menu before the owner arrived for the day. When she showed up, every table and flat surface in the restaurant was completely covered with different entrees on it. There were dishes with food from wall to wall. It became immediately apparent to her that they had too many choices on the menu to be able to do an exceptional job for every customer order. No explanation necessary.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keys to the Kingdom? No Thank You

photo courtesy Rich Anderson really wants the keys to the kingdom? Management often thinks the person that has them does so for the wrong reasons. That they want to hold the company hostage for selfish reasons. There are exceptions, but I generally believe they are victims of circumstance.

Why do they have the Keys in the first place?

It is not as common in processes that are widely understood. Typically it occurs in areas where one or more of the following are present:

  • complicated processes
  • process outputs have implications or dependencies in other areas or processes
  • process is not well defined
  • exception handling responses are non-existent or not well understood
  • long duration between repeat occurrences of an issue
  • many different issues - few obvious similarities
  • minimal direct control over inputs
  • lack appropriate preventative signals or controls
Sink or Swim Syndrome

One common reason a single person has all the information and control over a critical process is they were tasked with solving a complicated problem or cluster of problems in the area which required extensive research, experimentation, trials, and hard won learning.

Process Grandfathering

Some complicated processes are passed down from one person to the next via long term on-the-job training and mentoring that is time consuming and impractical to include multiple individuals.

If they are the experts, why don’t they fix the process?

The process roles people play can be generally characterized by the following:

  • problem solvers
  • designers
  • operators
  • protectors

All the roles are important to successful, repeatable processes, but might not be applied in the appropriate proportions. People often have the skills and play multiple roles, but depending on specifically which roles are in highest concentration, processes can lack the necessary detail and structure to prevent someone from having the Keys to the Kingdom.

High profile processes are frequently high profile because when a problem surfaces it has serious negative consequences that require quick resolution. The problem solvers are thrown at the problem to protect the organization. Problem solvers are valuable to the organization for their ability to root out causes and put interim corrective actions or workarounds in place. But, if the problem solvers are not also process designers, they may not have the skills or the time to put the necessary long term corrective actions, preventative process controls, and documentation in place.

How does your organization prevent Keys to the Kingdom? Thoughts?

Photo attribution: / CC BY-SA 2.0