Studying Little Caesars, Valor operations specialist Mark Vadaro calculate that over the course of a week a typical worker traveled 26,852 yards making and serving pizzas, wings, and other products. He then set to work rearranging the store. He moved the flour bags to the back, so they weren’t in people’s way. He put extra cheese in fridges below the pizza-making stations so that people didn’t have to leave their posts to do more grating. The moves reduced the yards traveled 31 percent, to 18,628. “If you’re walking around, you’re not making pizzas,” Vadaro says. … Faster pizza production let to happier customers and sales of higher-profit items … and the average customer order has climbed. The Smarter Pizza Makers, Bloomberg Businessweek, Mar 10, 2014.
OMG, that’s boring. Wouldn’t we rather sit around with a committee of a dozen and argue over what would be the better way to improve? This way the most assertive or powerful or whomever could gather the biggest coalition would determine how we improved our operations. Go team, go. All we need is a meeting!
For more see Meeting Madness? Don’t do it!
Seriously, why are we making such a big deal out of moving flour bags around and how much cheese is in the fridges? People can just hustle a bit more when there is a backlog. These little changes are just annoying and will confuse people. Let’s work instead on what is really important such as [insert random concern here].
Organizations that don’t do well don’t generally see the advantage of small refinements such as rearranging or incrementally improving the process. Their processes are in so much chaos that small tweaks would be laughable to most people.
More in depth on How To Avoid Optional Chaos In Your Project
I often talk about stabilizing the existing process first. Then nailing it down to something we want to do everyday.
I was the new director of software development. I amazingly couldn’t get the finance department to tell me what my budget was. When they did finally give it to me it was a large stack of printed pages, most of which were empty except for boilerplate, and nothing with what was my department’s approved budget for that year.
As requests and charges came in, I ended up simply approving them and recording them in my own spreadsheet. One day I got an invoice that dealt with another director’s department so I hiked on down the hall to give it to him. His reaction? I didn’t have to do that. Just sign it. We just sign whatever was given to us regardless of what department it belonged to. After a short discussion he still didn’t understand why I cared about each director handling their own items. It was no big deal to him.
Once we finished out the year and had we had entered the budgeting period, I had more data already on my own department than most of the other directors had. I then very quickly generated my budget based upon what we had done the last year and what I knew we wanted to do the coming year (e.g., customer requests). The other departments were still waiting on finance to supply them with numbers. No one seemed to get it that we needed to be on top of our expenses, that it was our job and not finances. Yet this is how we always did it, and no one saw an issue, except the new guy, me.
Not too long afterwards I took an offer from another company across town and turned in my resignation. While these transitions often make for awkward discussions, the general manager commented that he would miss how organized I was. What he never seemed to understand was that we needed to work on getting many of the little things working well, which make us naturally organized, before we could make the big changes that he was always searching for.
Are you constantly finding and making the small improvements that make things more efficient?