This process is broken

Process 1. Diagnosis — Broken

  • You’re in Starbucks.
  • You order your coffee.
  • They ask you your first name.
  • Reluctantly you give it (OK, I confess I always say my first name is Mr Customer).
  • The barista writes your name on the cup and passes the cup down the production line.
  • You wait.
  • Finally Barista Number 2 puts a cup down on the counter and calls out “Double espresso?”
  • And eight people say “Yeah, me!”


Process 2. Diagnosis — Broken

  • You’re in McDonalds.
  • You use the machine to place your order.
  • You pay and it spits out an order number.
  • You go and look at the screen.
  • Your order number is being prepared.
  • Now your order number is ready to collect.
  • “Quarterpounder with cheese?” calls the McDonalds worker.
  • And eight people go: “Yeah, me!”

Guys, why are you doing things?
In every organisation there are multiple processes just like this.
Show up, ask yourself questions. Make changes. Live better.


Process: why rules can cause more harm than good

Workflow rules: we put them down for a good reason, to create a uniform, standardised outcome.

Sometimes, however, adhering to a rule in your workflow creates an outcome that is worse than the “non-standard” alternative.

We recognise these paradoxes and so create contingencies:

e.g. x must ALWAYS be y (except z when n will apply but ONLY if p > t AND when changing non-standard x to standard y you MUST then also change all instances of C otherwise j will not work)

When time spent managing the network of exceptions and contingencies because of a rule exceeds time spent producing outputs, we may need to revisit the rule. Did it really need to be there? Is it adding genuine value or was it based on something wholly arbitrary to begin with and simply become institutionalised? Has it now become an untouchable “sacred cow”?

You can’t sell internal process

You can only sell the result of process. The more complex the process you must perform to get you from input to output, the the farther you stray from profit.

Where are the sacred cows in your business that seem holy and untouchable but in fact are keeping you from the light?