Do you want a high performance operation? Don't go off track!!!

I was in a fast food restaurant the other day. KFC was shut due to the chicken shortage and I used one of their competitors. Don't judge me, I had just gotten over the flu and now I was hungry!

My experience was fascinating; this other fast food business was in absolute chaos. Their staff were all looking confused, food was building up in a pile on a table near the serving area and it took me nearly twenty minutes to get my order...

No, this isn't a sob story this is a reminder to all of us that we need to stick to our operating rules (when our rules are right, of course). The business in question is usually a fantastic example of a well oiled team with a slick operation, but with a slight increase in custom they tried to adjust their system 'on the fly' and got it wrong.

In this business everyone knows what they have to do, when they have to do it and how well they need to do it. On this particular visit I could see supervisors trying to 'help' their team members and the result was that they were getting in the way. Instead of following their own system they appeared to be circumnavigating it and creating chaos.

Doesn't this happen to all of us at some point? We try to help our businesses when they are suffering in terms of their operational performance and before we know it they have completely gone off track.

We need to stick to our guns and follow the methods we have prescribed for high performance and watch the results follow... now there are a couple of times when this might not be the case:
  1. If you haven't defined your high performance way of working, especially the routines and slick methods of operation.
  2. If you have already thought through the different scenarios that can affect your business' operations and you have 'gears' for your business.
In the first case - good luck when it gets tough. When the tough period is over then it is time to define the best way of working and then you can stick to that.

In the second case - this gives a business both robustness, flexibility and performance. Any business that is familiar with the term Takt Time, uses Kan-Bans and already has effective teamwork and management practices in place will be able to cope with changing situations. But, once the system is in place it needs to be left to do its own thing. Failures should be reviewed, if they happen, and the system upgraded, but don't go off track when the system is under pressure.

So, before I leave you, here are two questions to get your grey matter whirring:
  • Do you have effective routines defined for your business?
  • Do you have different 'play books' for different scenarios that your business regularly experiences?
Answering these two questions could make a huge difference to the performance of your business, especially when a surge of demand comes into it.

All the best,


About the author Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes. Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement toolkit.

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