Costa, Kaizen and Rueful Smiles (#15)

Clues are everywhere, you've just got to keep your eyes and ears open, sniff the wind and make a considered judgement. Last week I tweeted this picture of an "Improvement Room" as an indication of the depth and spread of Kaizen engagement in a business I visited.

In a similar vein I've been thinking about Costa Coffee this week and a seemingly trivial issue that may or may not be a marker for something similar. On days that I'm not on a client site I sometimes work in Costa; they make me comfortable with caffeine and WIFI, generally pay more tax than some of the alternative outlets, and provide the ambient noise I like to work in.

The picture above is of the in-store Costa scanner that scans my Costa smartphone app, thus accumulating loyalty points to reward me with a free beverage every 15 years or so. For as long as I can remember, in most Costa stores, I have to present my IPhone twice as the first beep rarely does the job. The second always does.

I know, I know...first world problem I hear you shouting, and you're not wrong except for it's indication of a deeper issue. Let's walk straight past the efficiency impact of the barista having to pause for a couple of seconds each time and request a rescan (a hundred or so times a day? x hundreds of stores). That's a prime Yokoten opportunity going to waste.

Similarly, we'll sidestep the mild irritation for me (the Customer) of having to re-present the phone a second time and move onto the real point here.

You see, I've been watching this with interest for the best part of 6 months, during which time I've asked 10 or so different baristas in various stores "Have you reported this upwards?" and "Is it going to get fixed?". The response is the killer rueful smile. A resigned shrug accompanied smile that says "We've told them any number of times, nothing's been done and we've given up telling them".

That's the real problem. "We've given up" means I'm not engaged in Kaizen. I may see all sorts of problems and opportunities but have no incentive to raise them. That sigh is the sound of sustainable competitive advantage leaving the building. The great thing about people is that we're flexible and can adapt to things, the bad thing about people is that we're flexible and can adapt to things. Abnormal quickly becomes Normal.

I've seen a lot of this over the years in the hundred or so organisations I've been in. Engaging your people in Kaizen is the number one job after making sure you're not injuring them or giving current Customers a problem. Get to it and if you want to know where to start, get in touch.


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