July 15, 2009

Keeping Core

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:17 am by lindaslongview

JambaJuiceJamba Juice is a frozen fruit smoothie franchise that has consistent taste, predictable service (both timing and quality), hip marketing, and friendly staff.  As a process engineer, I have always marveled at the “process line” that Jamba Juice employs.  It is simple, efficient, and allows for excellence in quality in pace and accuracy (so long as the vast majority of products being sold are smoothies).

Jamba Juice uses a register station, a prep station, a blending station, a finishing station, and a washing station.  The “line” works because each smoothie gets a paper ticket with the smoothie identity (product) and the purchaser identity.  The paper ticket sticks to the blender carafe when moist, so information flows along the line with each carafe.  As the tickets flow, carafes are prepped and pushed down the line, creating an excellent First-In-First-Out (FIFO) process line.  The “line” is usually well staffed to ensure flow through the series of stations and the register station can be used regulate flow.  If needed, they can reduce the flow momentarily by ceasing to take orders when they get too backed up.  It is easy to see your order progress in the line-up, making the wait very predictable.

I also like Jamba Juice because they are “hip.”  They use colorful advertising, clean humor, and they have a “secret smoothie menu” that appeals to teens (my kids like the “Pink Star”).

When I went for a smoothie today (it was hot outside), I found that Jamba Juice had added many new food products to their menu.  I watched sadly as the once simple process gave way to complexity and FIFO flow was no longer working.  The woman in front of me in line received only one of her two smoothies.  Even though she muttered about the error (such that I knew), she was not assertive in requesting a correction from the staff.  On the other hand, when I observed that one of my smoothies had NOT been prepared at the prep station, I spoke up immediately, because it was clear to me that the new way the paper tickets and carafes flowed led to errors and a loss of system capacity.

Indeed the squeaky wheel (me) got the grease (my order was fixed ASAP).  I left advising the woman ahead of me to speak up, even though I knew that more expediting would continue to cost process capacity.  They had became caught in an eternal expedite situation – as each person found an error in their order, “flow” work ceased and “expedite” work filled the capacity of the staff.   The line backed up more and more because complexity unintentionally increased the rate of error and no mechanism was added to compensate.

I lament the loss of the niche excellence that Jamba Juice once commanded.  I am saddened because they have lost their core to the unintended consequence of what probably seemed like an “improvement” (revenue?).  Maybe only this location was duly affected with the addition of food to the menu and maybe they can create a corrective action, but I am not confident.

Jamba Juice failed to see the long view value of their core competence from a customer’s perspective:  consistent fruit smoothie preparation (tasty!), FIFO process (predictable timing), and high order quality (order accuracy).  It is the experience that has value. The unintended consequence of their change compromised this core value.    As my friend Greg (a marketing guy) points out, “Ask your customers why they buy your product and why they buy your product from you and not one of your competitors. You will no doubt be amazed at the answer.”  In summary, understand your core and the potential for unintended consequences from your customer’s perspective.

Do you know what your customers think your core competency is?

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June 4, 2009

More Wednesdays!

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:08 pm by lindaslongview

wednesdayThe long view advice when faced with pettiness is to take the high road.  No durable happiness is ever derived from succumbing to pettiness in others. Revenge is fleeting and often filled with long-term negative consequences.  It is okay to channel the bumper sticker that reads, “Mean People Suck” to sum up our emotions and feelings from being taken advantage, but keeping negativity appropriately directed (safely venting only!) is the best course.  I share this wisdom as I face down my own challenge with a backyard fence:

The shared fence between my neighbor’s home and my home is in severe disrepair.  It has been that way for about ten (10) years.  Five years ago, when a significant portion fell, our neighbor did not want to replace the fence and because we planned to redo our backyard in a few years time, waiting seemed like an acceptable option.  We agreed to an unaesthetic functional repair.  A few years later, when we redid our backyard and approached our neighbor to replace the fence, it became clear to us that he was an obstructionist.  Unfortunately, what before seemed reasonable became precedent.  With the fence failing again and the homeowner’s association notifying us that it needs to be replaced/repaired (to maintain the aesthetics of the neighborhood), we still cannot get our neighbor to agree to replace the fence!

Recently, my husband and I decided that life is too short to not enjoy our backyard more and have decided that we will shoulder 90% of the cost of the fence replacement (the neighbor would pay 10%, which is equivalent to half the cost of another unaesthetic repair).  Shockingly, our neighbor is still obstructing by demanding terms of the contractor, timing, and more, before giving approval for the work to proceed.  Aaarrgghhh…..

  • The high road, the high road, the high road, the high road….my mantra to get me through those emergent thoughts of effigy burning.
  • What else works is laughter to ease the frustration.  Jim, my fence guy (who has quoted this job many times over 10 years, but never been given the go ahead to do the work), regales me with tales of much worse neighbors.  He makes me laugh and it never seems so bad after I talk to Jim.
  • Lastly, perhaps there is prayer?  Yesterday, I attended a special occasion prayer service and learned that the psalm for Wednesday is a prayer for spiritual retribution:  “…Judge of the earth, give the arrogant their deserts…destroy them with their own evil…”

Although I continue to take the high road, I concurrently pine for more Wednesdays!

Do you take the high road or pine for more Wednesdays?