Case Study - Process System Failure - Thanksgiving Retail

Turkey w PieSometimes, one of the best ways to demonstrate an example is using an every person event.  Thanksgiving.  The decision was to use a chain restaurant to obtain Thanksgiving dinner.  It was the time of Covid, so getting everyone together for the typical gathering was not going to happen, for health reasons.  This meant there was no sharing of dishes with the various family members.  Pick up was set for 1pm on Thanksgiving, understanding that there would still be two hours of prep for the food (warming, etc.).  Got to the restaurant at about 1pm and there was a line of over 60 people already outside the building, who had also ordered for 1pm.  And the line was not moving.

After two and a quarter hours, we finally were at the beginning of the line with a few people in front.  Just having gotten into the building itself.  So we had a chance to see the process.  There was one person at the register that was trying his best to handle the orders.  I watched as it took 10 minutes for him to process one order as he went to the back and to the front looking for something that was not there.  The manager and two others were handling a service line for people placing an order on the spot, which meant pre-orders were getting much worse service than those just arriving to place an order.  I went to the manager to complain, and he said I had to have patience, to which I said “I did two and a half hours ago.”  He said he had placed sufficient people with four men at the truck to pull together the order.

When I finally got to my turn, I paid and received a slip to take to the truck for them to assemble my order.  Just then, the manager had gone to the person at the register in my line and asked what he could do.  The young person said he could use a person at the register so he could do the other things needed.  The manager began manning the register.  I watched them assemble my order at the truck, four people who were not busy.  My 1:00 pm pickup was at 3:30pm.  And there were going to be people behind me that would be waiting over three hours.  And I was aware of at least three people who left without waiting for their orders.  So what went wrong?

Governance/ Culture – Customer satisfaction would seem to be an essential element at this time.  If you want to have repeat customers for Thanksgiving pre-orders, you need a good experience.  Based on the response from the manager, he felt that he assigned people, so that was all he had to do.  He was not focused on the results, .i.e., in the really excessive wait times for his customers.  So the result was the complete lack of adaptability and a total lack of urgency.  Customer orientation was obviously lacking.

Processes – Given the total deficiency of the process, there was a complete lack of agility, likely a lack of training and certainly an inability for continuous improvement.  While continuous improvement is often considered in longer timeframes, in fact, it was required for this process.  It would also be good to point out the lack of self-assessment within the process, none was being made.  Where was the choke point?  What was the level of activity at the register versus the truck?  Who was idle?

Feedback/ Reporting (Metrics) – Based on observations, the manager had no idea of the backlog outside his door.  He was involved in the current new orders and not in the pre-orders.  He never looked out the door to see the length of the line.  He did not know of the wait required.  In fact, he was not managing.  Note here, that the metrics were not counts that needed to be done before determining an action.  It was walking around to see what was happening.  He did not evaluate where the backups were occurring and where resources were underutilized.

Management – Management’s ultimate responsibility is not to do the work.  It is to facilitate and ensure an efficient and effective operation.  That means being aware.  Looking for opportunities to improve.  The one good thing he did was to ask the young person at the register what he needed.  On the other hand, he was two hours late and should have been ahead of the problem.

Planning – At first glance, there may have been some planning done.  There were some orders that were pre-organized.  Unfortunately, a number of those were never picked up because people waited too long in line and left without their orders.  Even though this arrangement for Thanksgiving is an annual event, there does not seem to be a defined process on which to build.  And then there is a question as to whether cross-training existed among the staff so people could backfill as necessary.  No what-if scenarios seemed to have been developed.  And no monitoring was built into the process to determine issues early.

As operations go, this is a simple example.  It is also at the lowest level of the company, which shows the topics discussed on the home page need to be considered at all levels of the organization.

(Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay )