I have often praised Waffle House for their execution and culture which frankly amazes me in this modern world. They have relatively low turnover and people working there generally seem very happy. I have jokingly suggested that it must be all the greasy food they serve that creates the happiness. Recently I asked an employee why he had stayed with Waffle House and he told me about their employee stock program. For the past year I have been stunned at how this culture works so well.
That is until this morning, which started out the same way as usual. However, I noticed my waitress Gail was not happy this morning when I got there at my usual 6:40 arrival time. As she placed my usual ham and cheese omelet order, nothing seemed to be wrong. That is, until I watched as the grill operator seemed to be struggling to fulfill it. I thought he had been the same one to make my omelet last week, but apparently not.
After about 20 minutes of failed attempts to make it he finally gives up and tells Gail he can’t … “nobody taught me how to make a ham and cheese omelet!” What? Waffle House didn’t train him how to make whatever they had on the menu? Apparently not. And, worse yet, his performance making everything else seemed to go to pot.
This reminded me of a scene in the movie The Replacements which I have also blogged about in the past. The team has suffered a humiliating defeat even though everyone was trying hard, but they didn’t really know how to perform as a team yet. After all, the strike had thrown everything into chaos and they were all learning how to play as a team.
The coach has an after game review of what happened and stresses that fear of failure was at the root of all this. After several silly comments about what made each player fearful, Keanu Reeves uses the phrase quicksand to summarize the basis. Here is a link to the scene.
It is a profound thought and in some ways captures the challenge today in many companies. Perhaps most damning this morning is that no one took the opportunity to respond to that employee’s cry for help. They let him wallow in it. Someone else made the omelet … they missed the opportunity to pull that employee up … and they all suffered for it.
We have all been chasing that holy grail of customer satisfaction and moving towards net promoter scores as a metric of success. While this is certainly a part of the puzzle we need to understand and pursue … it is only a part.
I have studied how we learn in life and thought initially that we learn through success. Upon further study, I found that success is much less influential in our learning than failure. The mark of great innovators is that they fail quickly … learning from what doesn’t work and using that to define what might. They try and fail until they succeed.
If you accept this hypothesis, we should be studying customer satisfaction and net promoter scores by studying customer dissatisfaction very closely. However, go ahead and have those conversations in your organization and you will certainly notice defensive arguments and finger pointing rather than looking into what we should learn.
Here is an example from a truly competitive industry which at first glance might sound a bit like airlines charging for luggage (which really miffs me so I and others now carry on everything). The hotel industry has studied a small element of customer dissatisfaction and found a new revenue source.
I always like reading about how the first embryonic ideas driving innovation move from childhood to adulthood. It is disturbing to some that things like pornography are behind some of the best electronic innovations. Our desire to point to altruistic over hedonistic motives is based in part by our natural storytelling formulas: good wins over evil, the nice guy gets the girl, or pick the one you like best.
My wife Susan bought tickets to Les Miserables and of course I had to attend. I knew the basic storyline and I tried to warn her that it ends very badly. Spoiler alert if you have not seen it … everyone dies in the play. I know it is deeper than that, but work with me. You do get my point. We all like happy endings to our stories.
Despite all the bad actors on the Internet, few would debate the overall good it has enabled. It is an information superhighway. It does still present huge opportunities for the future. And, unfortunately, along with that come all those “bad guys” taking advantage of all too many.
The news media of course feeds on scaring us all with things that do go wrong. But, let’s not lose sight of the opportunities to make the world a better place through technologies.
I have long criticized this name for advocacy organizations because it shows their intent: hopefully gore the ox of their “adversaries” in life. Compromise is not their intent, nor is a balanced discussion of any issue.
This is an excellent article in that it points out how things start out with noble intents and are endorsed by all until someone’s ox gets gored. We need to put down the stakes we are holding and discuss what is in the best interest of our nation and how we are going to pay for things.
Just because you make buggy whips doesn’t mean you should be against the internal combustion engine. At the time, it was the best alternative. Now, we are moving toward the electric motor … which by the way, was the first car power system.
Put down the stake … take a deep breath … and let’s talk this through.
I pointed out that water might be the next critical infrastructure concern in a recent blog, especially in the West. Water is a largely hidden resource… not many people pay attention to groundwater availability until they run out of it. So, I get the disconnect.
But, today’s USA just makes me wonder whether we are conveniently blind to what we say we care about: Speed Limits.
I remember the energy embargoes which brought our nation to its knees, resulted in gasoline rationing, and made us all slow down on the highways with a 55 mph speed limit instead of the 65 many of us had gotten used to.
Now that we have become a net exporter of oil I guess some want to raise our consumption.