Last week, I was in Austin for the annual Lean Coaching Summit, where I took a full-day class on “Motivational Interviewing” (as I had previewed here) and talking with a lot of great folks (familiar faces and new connections).
A group of us, including friends and previous podcast guests Mike Orzen, Karyn Ross, joined me, some other folks, and future podcast guests Tracey and Ernie Richardson (their new book, The Toyota Engagement Equation, is out soon).
After dinner, I walked past the suggestion box that was posted just inside the front door.
One of my dinner companions goaded me into taking a closer look (it could have been the margarita talking). Here is that box… they said, “Look, there's a lock on it,” knowing that I often playfully mock the need to lock a workplace suggestion box, including here.
It's funny to me that there's an exclamation point “Suggestion Box!” as if to imply this is exciting.
Somewhat surprisingly, the box was actually unlocked. Yes, I tried opening it (that might have been the margarita acting). It might have been rude and not my place, but I took a peek.
Sure enough, there were MANY slips of paper. It begs the question of how long those pieces of paper had been in there. Was this where “good ideas go to die?”
I don't remember the restaurant offering slips of paper, so it seemed that, if you wanted to put in a suggestion, you had to be pretty motivated.
I was about to just close the box, but what appeared to be a child's handwriting jumped out at me. Again, maybe I shouldn't have, but I took a closer look:
The child (or somebody in their party) was clearly “not happy” (or somebody goaded them into writing this).
This wasn't a “suggestion” slip, it was a complaint.
The service was too slow, apparently. Too long of a wait for a table. Too long of a wait for food.
Maybe they also waited too long for a server to appear.
There's no “suggestion” here other than the implied “fix it.”
In the history of suggestion boxes, they are often well intended. Sadly, more often than not, these boxes end up being very demoralizing when the intent is workplace improvements.
Worse than not asking for suggestions is asking for suggestions and then doing nothing with them.
There are so many reasons why the classic “suggestion box” system just doesn't work, as I've tried to address in Healthcare Kaizen and other settings, including:
And these blog posts:
The Kaizen methodology provides a clear alternative that has a fighting chance of succeeding, if leaders put effort into create an environment in which people can speak up, suggest changes, and test those changes to see if they are improvements.
I had a really good experience at the restaurant last week. My suggestions to them include:
- Open up the box and read the comments
- Take action, when possible, based on the customer ideas
- Engage restaurant employees in improving products, processes and systems, in response to customer suggestions
- Engage every employee in helping drive improvements driven by frustrations in their own work, making work easier so they can provide better service to customers and better profits to the restaurant's bottom line.
What do you think?
You can also see some restaurant related posts on Kaizen (or the lack thereof):
Thanks for reading!
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