This post is part of a series on Lean Manufacturing at Starbucks and Starbucks Cultural Change.
The series of posts can be found here:
- Starbucks, Why Lean, Why Now?
- Starbucks Lean Thinking, Turnaround, Alignment to Transformation Agenda
- Lean, Starbucks, Change Management and Resistance, Fiefdoms and Stores
- Starbucks Coffee, Queueing Theory, and Theory of Constraints
The media’s interest and criticism of Starbucks’ decision to adopt lean as a management philosophy is a bit overdone. On the one hand, it’s good there’s tremendous interest in Starbucks’ Lean Journey; on the other, the media coverage has been poor at best and premature at worst.
In any event, many people are now following the Starbucks story and how they are adopting lean manufacturing as applied to their service business in interest.
John Shook, the head of the Lean Enterprise Institute and the main coach and consultant to the head of the Starbucks lean program also believes that publicity this early in the lean journey was premature:
This was initiated by the Journal. I think Starbucks agrees with me that the publicity is premature. It’s better to get solid results first before rolling out the public communications machine (source: http://goo.gl/2x7xT).
But now that the warts and zits – that are inevitably present in every lean transformation – are public, how can Starbucks best minimize the judgments from the court of public opinion?
I think it starts with the general approach.
Over the last few years, Starbucks has been applying to the coffee counter the kind of “lean” manufacturing techniques car makers have long used as a way to streamline production, eliminate wasteful activity and speed up service. The company has deployed a “lean team” to study every move its baristas make in order to shave seconds off each order.
That team discovered that many stores kept beans below the counter, leading baristas to waste time bending over to scoop beans, so those stores ended up storing the beans in bins on the top of the counter (source: http://goo.gl/feBsn)
The tone that the above conjures in my mind is of an outside consultancy, emotionally removed and detached from the business, that swoops in, makes changes, and then leaves.
Showing or telling Baristas about where to store material, how to create an optimal layout for flow, should be determined and the changes made by the Baristas themselves, not the Lean Team.
One thing we know about change management is that if the people are involved in the changes, resistance is minimized. Plus, fundamentally, lean thinking is about building people and not just improving processes. If the Wall Street Journal’s report is accurate, then Starbucks approach is seemingly top-down, leading many Baristas to revolt in anger and rebellion as demonstrated by the many blog posts and comments from the Baristas themselves.
What Should Starbucks Do?
Get rid of the Lean Team. Instead, build-up, develop, and stretch your Baristas and allow them to apply the principles of lean to their respective store. A top-down application of Standardized work at this stage will be met with massive resistance and is not really aligned to the lean principles that I know. In fact, from the published reports, that’s the current outcome – a lot of resistance and a general feeling of “top-down” command and control.
I don’t believe Starbucks’ intention is to appear heavy handed or enforce standardization, but that is the perception; and, as we know, people respond and act on perception.
How about this as an alternative approach:
- Train a few folks in a few stores or a few Starbucks locations.
- Then, have them immediately apply what they’ve learned to their store operations.
- Out of this approach, several A3 Reports should emerge.
- Share those A3 reports with the Wall Street Journal and allow your Baristas to get some publicity, take pride in their own efforts, and learn and stretch along the way. Celebrate those A3 reports. Heck, maybe there could be best practice sharing from one store to the others: store-to-store.
- A lessons-learned for one store from its application of lean could start a natural and lateral dissemination of lean thinking, not top-down.
- When this approach is applied for some time, then bring a bunch of Baristas together and design an approach to applying Lean to the Starbucks business with a “Freedom within Framework” perspective or “structured flexibility”, allowing each store to apply the principles in their way, but with a few non-negotiables that they all-together need to decide.
- Thus, this approach eliminates the notion of the Lean Team – the whole company and every store with this approach becomes their own lean team, as it were.
Yes, applying 5S, Standardized Work, and other common lean tools is interesting and good, but is not really lean. If there’s no knowledge transfer and if the Baristas aren’t making these changes themselves, then the approach is fundamentally not following the principles of lean – AND, there will be continued resistance by the Baristas in Starbucks thousands of stores and Starbucks locations.
To illustrate the point I’m making, here is a citation by the Wall Street Journal of the current approach:
[…] Earlier this year, Heydon accompanied regional directors to New York. At one store, the barista made about 40 trips back and forth before the store opened — carrying baked goods from one end of the shop, where they were delivered, to the pastry case at the other end. Time clocked: one hour and 15 minutes. Heydon and the store’s manager came up with changes including rolling a pastry rack next to the case. Efforts at other stores have shaved an average of an hour-and-a-half off the task per store per week (source: goo.gl/Y5mX).
Scott Heydon, as mentioned above, is Starbucks’ Vice President of Lean Thinking. Notice that the ones that made the changes was the Store Manager and the Scott Heydon, the VP of Lean Thinking.
In contrast, an outcome that is more aligned to the true principles of lean manufacturing would be the following re-written outcome of the above quote:
At one store, the barista made about 40 trips back and forth before the store opened — carrying baked goods from one end of the shop, where they were delivered, to the pastry case at the other end. Time clocked: one hour and 15 minutes. The Barista and her team identified the root causes for all the travel time and motion; they made some changes and implemented simple practical countermeasures to reduce the travel time and motion with support from the Starbucks management team and the changes resulted in X, Y, Z.
In my rendering, the Barista and her team are the heroes, not the VP of Lean Thinking or the store managers. That is fundamentally how successful lean transformations are made.
The Barista Must be The Hero
In principle, the Baristas must increase, and the Starbucks Lean Team and those associated with the Starbucks VP of Lean Thinking must decrease – that is, the Barista must take center stage and the rest of the “formal” lean people at Starbucks should appropriately move to the background.