The quantity theory of excellence and a performance management response

The restaurant is doing well. The staff are great, good food and a nice atmosphere.

The restaurant becomes more and more popular and the owner is delighted. His dream of a successful business has come true. He enjoys the fact that the restaurant is full and takings are up.

Something does begin to bother him. He is starting to receive complaints about long waiting times for food. Some of the food arrives cold on the tables. Some people get the wrong order. Some food is clearly not cooked properly.

In response he has a word with the chefs and the waiters and waitresses. He explains his concerns and asks for a big improvement. The employees say they will do their best but complain they are struggling with the volume of work.

The complaints keep coming. The restaurant owner becomes increasingly concerned so he decides to introduce some systems and processes to track and monitor the staff and to make sure things are being done properly.  He introduces two key performance measures. In the kitchen he introduces a form that the chef’s must complete. They are to note down the orders when they get them. Make a note of the time they start preparing and cooking. They must also get a signature from the head chef to sign off the food to say that it is of an acceptable standard to be served.

The staff waiting on tables have a similar process. They have a form to fill in that notes the arrival time of people to a table. They must also note when they deliver drinks, and the timings for the delivery of each food course. Finally they must note the time the bill is paid and how much the bill is for.

The manager also builds financial incentives and penalties around these performance measures. The chef’s are measured on a preparation to delivery index. The faster they can get food out at an acceptable standard the better. Those waiting tables are paid a bonus based on a time/income calculation. The owner creates a clever index whereby the amount paid per table is divided by the time taken to serve them. The manager likes customers who pay well but are served quickly as this leaves the tables free for more potential customers. He is also able to differentiate members of staff and how well they are working.

A few questions for you. If we believe the phrase ‘what gets measured gets done’  – what will the outcome of the management measures be here? What else will happen as a result of the manager’s actions?

Next re-read the example but think about hospitals, factories, public sector organisations or your business. Is this how businesses are run? With what impact?

Music playing in the office this week 

In celebration of Little Feat touring the UK the ‘Waiting for Columbus’ live album is getting plenty of air time. Possibly the best live album ever (according to Andy)