Thursday, 1 April 2010

Don't Over-Engineer It!

What is about an organisation that complicates what should be simple? Why when a small group of people grows to an organisation, do they become blind to simplicity? Why over-engineer problems and introduce unwieldy systems and operating procedures?

So I was in a restaurant in a hotel recently when I discovered the chicken I’d been served was undercooked. I called the waitress over and the meal was taken away. Then nothing much happened. So I called over the Maitre D’ and expressed my disappointment that what I thought was a decent establishment had a poor attitude to food safety. A few feet away from my table was the open-plan counter of a kitchen where the food was prepared. Somewhere around the corner was a chef. I felt like going off to find him or her to get answers to my question, it seemed so simple. The Maitre D’s response? “I’m very sorry sir. You can be sure I’ll be sending lots of emails tomorrow morning to sort this out”.

What the …?

All three people in the equation were there, just feet away. The chef. The customer. The manager.
Emails? A conversation would be a good start.

I figured that if I’d been in a small family or owner-run business it would have been sorted out quickly - and there’d have been no emails in sight.

So at all costs: if the problem is in the kitchen (or the sales office, or wherever), don’t send emails. Just walk in there and sort it out.

Don’t complicate something when it's really quite simple.


Leadership Freak said...


Love your story. I send too many emails to the person in the office beside mine.

I was thinking about how to tell if things are too complex. One simple answer is, its too complex if it slows or hinders customer service.

Ron Ashkenas' says in his book, Simply Effective, that complexity lies in organizational structure, products, and/or processes.

Thanks for giving back to the community.

Leadership Freak,
Dan Rockwell

Ian Sanders said...

Thanks Dan
like your benchmark for if things are too complex, that certainly resonates with my restaurant experience in Austin. It surely hindered customer service.
Thanks for checking out my blog

Anonymous said...

Just curious:
Did you ask to the maitre d' about this or was your first thought blog about the general problem in the hopes that the kitchen staff might stumble across it?