The Complexity Of Modern Operations Is Growing Faster than Your Employees’ Ability to Cope!

Do you remember the late 70’s sitcom Alice? Alice is a waitress at Mel’s diner. I remember that they had a cash register, and wrote their orders on a pad, and put them on a ticket wheel in the kitchen.  Mel would yell at the waitresses and they had regular customers etc..  For those of you who are my age and older that was state of the art in the 70’s and 80’s, if you ever were a cook and remember when the wheel would get full, that was a scary shift.

Think about that nostalgic restaurant and how simple it was to run vs. the restaurants of today.  Think of their systems vs. your systems.  Anyone could do Alice’s job with no almost no training. How hard is it to write down 2 Eggs Over Easy, Hash Browns Crispy, Bacon, White Toast and then rip the ticket off and put it on a wheel.

Today to take the same order you have to get a login for multiple systems, get trained on the POS and scheduling software, get trained on the modifiers, get trained on the menu, allergens, etc., etc., etc..  To get Alice up and running in your restaurants today takes days of training and back office work. 

My point is this, the same job today requires more of the employees than it did in the past. There are just so many more details in our operations that have to get done just so we can be open for business.  By the way this is true for every multi-location business, not just restaurants. 

It was easier to change a person’s oil in the 1970’s than it is today. It was easier to run a convenience or grocery store, be a dental hygienist, or operate a senior care facility.  It was all easier in the past because there were less offerings, less systems, and the customer didn’t have as many choices. 

It gets worse, at the same time, customers expect perfection from us constantly and they have 10X the choices if we don’t deliver.  There are no business switching costs in the modern world. Very few people live in an area where there is just one choice for anything. Cell phones who once were the last bastion of locking you on choice now some carriers will pay off your bill to their competitor just to get you to switch. 

We live in a world where 80% of the population have a level of choice that would make their great grandparents’ heads explode.  If you screw up my eggs today I can literally find 20 restaurants that are the same distance from my house that won’t screw them up tomorrow. 

What is the solution?

All of this means that we have to provide our employees with more systems and processes to help them cope with the additional complexity and the ever growing amount of daily details they are dealing with. I would also argue that more training isn’t the answer, systems and processes are more effective than memorization and training every time. Employees don’t stay long enough to invest in memorizing details. 

At the top of the list of systems you should be employing, Checklists are the cheapest and most effective. As Atul Gawande, Author of the Checklist Manifesto, says in his Ted Talk, “Checklists make Experts Better” and I would argue checklists make non-experts passable. Checklists can make any job accessible and compensate for real world experience and attention to detail of average employees.

A lot of you are saying, we already have checklists, Next! The funny thing about checklists is that most organizations have done a great job of creating them and an abysmal job of using them.  That is because most checklists are created on paper and for a checklist to be truly effective, there has to be an easy to manage accountability mechanism to ensure that people are using them and completing them correctly and in a timely manner.

You can’t get the accountability you need to be successful using checklists on paper, you need a platform like OpsAnalitica, that tracks, alerts, and holds your team accountable to doing their jobs.

I have a friend and she is the president of a Senior Living Company and she was talking to me about how the Senior Living Industry as a whole is famous for creating systems that never get used.  I assured them that they weren’t alone, that every industry sucks at holding their teams accountable for using their systems and doing work.  It’s because holding people accountable is the hardest thing to do without a platform.

The difference between a checklist platform, we call them Operations Management Platforms, vs paper checklists is similar to a POS system vs. a cash drawer. Both could be used but the POS and the Operations Management Platform are 1,000,000 times better.

So many multi-unit operators have relied on training as a way to address operational problems in the past. They did this because training was easier to create and manage then the details of running a shift at hundreds of locations. That training, training, training mentality came out of a need to control what you need to control. We can’t train our way out of this new complexity and it is only going to grow as more and more technology gets introduced into our businesses and needs for data to make decisions continue to grow.

The reality is that there is a limited number of items that a human mind can keep track of, 4 to 5 at any given time. As our operations become more complex there are more details, and programs to manage, our teams need tools to help them manage all of the details and tasks required of them. To quote Atul Gawande’s Ted talk one more time “Making Systems Work is the great task…” of business leaders. We can’t rely on training, memorizing, job aids, with no accountability mechanism. We have to rely on systems and processes that remind, guide, help, and hold our teams accountable to managing all the details of their jobs.

I will leave you with this thought. 80% of the issues that your customers have with your business, that show up in your reviews and customer satisfaction feedback. You have already identified, systematized, and trained your team about.  They are on your radar and fall into the category of control what you can control.  Your teams drop the ball on them repeatedly not because they don’t know about them but because they don’t have the tools they need to be successful at managing the complexity of your daily operations.  

If you want to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you control what you are supposed to control, please schedule a demo today

Tommy Yionoulis

I've been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life. I have a BSBA from University of Denver Hotel Restaurant school and an MBA from the same. When I wasn't working in restaurants I was either doing stand-up comedy, for 10 years, or large enterprise software consulting. I'm currently the Managing Director of OpsAnalitica and our Inspector platform was originally conceived when I worked for one of the largest sandwich franchisors in the country. You can reach out to me through LinkedIn.

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