Friday, October 28, 2011

On Implementation

This morning's Wall Street Journal had a long article about the latest European bailout plan.  A major bank leader observed the results of the effort and said this: 

"The implementation challenge is higher than the design challenge."
And this is not only true for Europe's economic crisis.  It is true for every bit of organizational design we do. 
Only when we implement do we have any impact. 
Good to keep in mind when designing.
Keep on learning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Right Sizing: A Full-Bore Example

When we talk about "Right Sizing" in Lean, the typical context is a machine way bigger than we need or a department spreading out to take available space rather than keeping machines and people close to each other. Yet it remains a difficult concept for many to grasp, especially when so many of us feel "bigger is better." 

I was thrilled, therefore, to stumble upon a marvelous small cafe during a vacation trip recently.  The Czarnuszka Soup Bar in Ephraim, Wisconsin demonstrates right-sizing with the best taste ever.  

Paul owns, operates, cooks, cleans, markets, and loves the CZ Soup Bar. I talked with him three times during our week in the area, the last a substantive conversation during a slow period on a Thursday afternoon. His story is instructive.  

Paul has been in food service for nearly 20 years, living in commercial kitchens, hoping to do something on his own.  Familiar with this small, tourist-oriented area north of the more famous town of Green Bay, Paul developed a plan over the past few years.

He looked for a small space, which he found about a year ago.  He then fitted it with a single stove, small but adequate refrigerator, seating for 12 people inside and 12 more on the porch.  He worked out a plan for a simple but compelling menu plan: Four soups and two sandwiches each day, the menu written on a chalk board.  He'd pick the soups, based on what was in season and what seemed pleasing to customers. He made it with passion, from scratch, from the heart.  He worked out the marketing plan; a simple photo of the chalkboard posted each morning on Facebook.   He worked out a personnel plan: he could do everything, needing no employees. 

He opened his dream in May, 2011.  Through the warm summer season, he did OK.  But his plan was to stay and prosper as the tourists left, the Wisconsin temperatures cooled and local residents still wanted tasty soups.  When we met in late September, the plan was gelling.  I witnessed a steady stream of customers, all enjoying the warmth and aroma of homemade soup in a cozy setting.  I saw a smiling Paul, feeling like it was coming together.  

What does this say about right sizing?  How did Paul right size?

  • His facility.  The small store was what he could manage himself.
  • His equipment.  The kitchen had just what he needed; no extra.
  • His marketing.  With a small menu, a photo on FB works great. 
  • His location.  He picked a small town where a small soup bar had a chance of succeeding. 
  • His menu.  The offerings each day are's a soup bar, after all, not a diner.  This lets him deliver what he knows he can make well.
  • His technology.  A chalk board is far more flexible than a written menu.  Paul can shift it (and does) daily.  He told me how he enjoys experimenting to find what works.  
  • His expectations.  This is the biggie.  At a strategic level, Paul rightsized.  Paul knew what he wanted; independence, a way to make an adequate if not extravagant income.  And he sized the entire enterprise to do just that. 
Will he make it?  Time will tell.  But Paul sure set it up well.  

And a best-ever example of right sizing.

Keep learning. 

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Moneyball, the movie

This afternoon, I saw the movie Moneyball.  I have seldom been so moved by a film.  

And I mention it here because this true story is the best metaphor I've ever seen of the need for a clear-cut philosophy of organizational success which is reducible to practice.    


The need for clarity of objective.  The need to describe it.  The need to get buy-in.  The inevitable resistance.  How, in a change setting, the situation often (always?) worsens before improving.  The need for valued assistants. How to make decisions consistently and confidently.  How the human and the structural interact.  The self-doubt.  Partial vs total success.  

This film captures the life of an organization at multiple levels.  I strongly recommend it to you.  

One note, especially for my readers outside the United States.  The film is entirely built around the game of American Baseball.  A knowledge of baseball improves comprehension; a working knowledge of baseball statistics and baseball history helps more.  Yet, even without this, many of the lessons will flow for you. 

I was familiar with the book from which this movie was made.  Yet the film captures organizational change in a way no book ever could. 

And it is an excellent way to keep on learning.