A Simple Question

I recently attended the CM Trends Conference 2010 in San Diego. The attendees at the conference are an inquisitive, questioning, observant lot. We look for defects. We look for trends. We look for opportunities.

We usually ate at the hotel restaurant, an Elephant and Castle. The atmosphere was casual. The food was good enough, well-priced, and a wide variety. Service was prompt and friendly. We usually ate in groups of four. Toward the end of our week there, we noticed a trend: After every meal, a waiter would bring our cheque… one cheque.

After every meal, we would say, “Separate cheques, please.”

After every meal, the polite waiting staff would respond with a smile, “No problem. Be back in a moment.” They were all very nice people who worked hard.

After every meal, the polite waiting staff would return a second time with our separate cheques.

I wondered if the waiting staff were trained to ask while taking orders whether cheques were separate. That would eliminate:

  • time lost for the second trip to the table and printing
  • printing unnecessary cheques (paper, wear, maybe ink)
  • delay for the customer
  • delays for other customers

I wondered. It was such a simple question. What simple questions exist at your workplace?

Some questions for you:

  • Do you train your people to look for opportunities to improve? To notice waste, rework and duplication?
  • When someone has an idea, do you welcome it or dismiss it?
  • If you say that you welcome ideas, do you actually evaluate the ideas?
  • Do you look for similar patterns? If this happened here, where else is it or could it happen?
  • Do you reward them for finding improvements?
  • Do you model continuous improvement?
  • If you notice something to correct, do you just tell people the correction or do you discuss it and look for more ideas?

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