Do Ideas Go "Poof" at Starbucks?
By Mark Graban:
I'm always fascinated by Starbucks. For one, I'm a regular customer and Starbucks has a reputation for hiring pretty educated people as baristas given their health benefits and all. So it seems like a huge opportunity to engage those employees in each and every Starbucks location (how many???) in kaizen, sharing those improvements across locations.
Ordering a drink for my wife and myself, I handed by “Gold Card” to the woman running the register. She ran the card. Then a few seconds later says, “Oops, I need to swipe it again for payment.” Some, but not all Gold Cards are used as stored value cards, some are just used for the discount and people pay cash or credit. There was a “defect” in the process (she almost forgot to take my money and it required more effort on her part).
She says to me, unprompted, “You should only have to swipe the card once. It would be nice if the computer could determine, on that single swipe if it's stored value and, if it is, just take the money off.”
Now that's not a Norman Bodek “Quick and Easy Kaizen” style idea… in his approach, the idea should be something the employee can take action on, such as moving where the lids for cups are stored to reduce walking.
But the employee has a valid idea — it's an idea that has to flow up. It's similar to a scenario where a nurse has an idea about the Electronic Medical Record system that would make her job easier. She can't fix it, but there needs to be an avenue for the idea to be heard.
I asked the barista, “That sounds like a good idea you have. So what happens to the idea? Does it just go poof into the air?”
I was checking to see if she would find it worth the time to tell her shift leader or store manager.
She smiled and said, “I dunno. There's probably a good tech reason why they can't do that, but they haven't told us.”
So if she *did* go to her store manager with that idea, the least she should deserve would be an answer back explaining why it wasn't possible (of course it *is* possible — it's just software) or why it's not possible right now. Or, is that a P.O.S. (Point of Sale) register feature that they *plan* on implementing at some point. She can't be the only one who has made that suggestion.
It would be a shame if the idea just went “poof.” I wonder how often she makes that same mistake. Do we blame her or the system? Is there a better process that they can put in place for the existing P.O.S. to make it harder to forget to swipe the Gold Card twice? Would that be a good short term fix?
Stay tuned, later this week I will blog about a very detailed article from the WSJ about two weeks ago that outlined some operational improvement efforts at Starbucks.