How a great idea got stuck in meetings
And how to reduce analysis paralysis - one of the first chapters of my upcoming book!
I have just released the first few chapters of my upcoming book “Twelve Habits of Highly Adaptive Leaders” to beta readers. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter “Habit 1: Reduce analysis paralysis by making reversible decisions”:
Veronica manages Magajima Amsterdam, an Asian restaurant that is part of an international chain with over 50 locations across Europe. Her restaurant sits near the central train station. This location was typical for Migajima. Most restaurants are in high-traffic areas, like airports and rest stops along the highway. Because of this, guests usually don’t want to spend more than an hour there. However, people pick Magajima because the experience is closer to a sit-down restaurant than a fast food chain.
The menu is the same across all restaurants and contains about 30 dishes, including different curries, dumplings, sushi, teppanyaki, and noodles. Every quarter, the team at headquarters sets and distributes the new menu. Veronica noticed many people were unfamiliar with the Asian dishes and often asked about what kind of food it was. For example, many people didn’t understand the difference between “ramen,” “soba,” or “udon” noodles and often asked the waiters to explain. Many guests struggled to make their choice, which cost her serving staff time.
For years, Veronica wanted to go on holiday to Japan. She had heard great stories about the fantastic hospitality and cuisine and was eager to experience it firsthand. Last month, Veronica finally took the trip. One thing she immediately noticed was how restaurants presented their menu. Some places displayed mockups of actual dishes outside the restaurant. And almost everywhere, the menu contained numerous high-quality photos of the dishes. Even though Veronica couldn’t read or speak a word of Japanese, she had no problem ordering her food because she saw exactly what she would be getting.
Many saw this as an opportunity for Magajima. If the menus were much more visual, surely people would have fewer problems ordering food. And it would decrease the time spent ordering and free servers from answering questions. She decided to bring this up as a topic in her next 1:1 meeting with Jill, the Head of Restaurant Operations.
Jill immediately liked the idea. She promised to bring this to Rob, the Head of Marketing, whose team is responsible for designing the menus. Three weeks later, Jill can get on the calendar with Rob. After Jill lays out the idea, Rob says: “I love it! However, it would radically increase the printing costs for all our restaurants. Since you and I don’t have the budget, we’ll need to bring this decision to the senior leadership meeting.”
Jill and Rob are part of the senior leadership team, but they had to convince the other leaders to get the additional budget. They knew it would require them to bring a well-crafted, detailed proposal. Jill asked the operations manager to estimate the cost of a menu with more pages and full-color photos. Rob asked one of their graphic designers to make a few slides with examples of the new menu. He then had several meetings with the design team to improve the initial design.
A month later, Jill and Rob have another meeting to finalize their proposal. They discuss the design and cost estimations. They also think through what might happen at the senior leadership meeting. Jill said: “The group will surely be concerned by the return on investment of this decision. Let’s add some calculations of how the higher printing cost will be gained back by increased serving capacity since people spend less time ordering.”
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Jill requests the secretary of the senior leadership team to find an available moment to discuss this topic. Six weeks later, they can fill an empty slot on the agenda.
At the meeting, they present their proposal. The first person to respond was the CFO: “I’m sorry, but the ROI calculation is weak. You have based the cost increase on facts, but the upside on the ‘gut feel’ of one restaurant manager. In our current process, we don’t measure the time customers take to order their food or the number of questions they ask the waiters, so we can’t know if the ROI is positive or negative.” The CEO quickly agrees and asks: “Could you put some measurements in place and bring this back to us?” Jill hesitantly nods and sighs.
After the meeting, Jill immediately calls Veronica apologetically: “I’m sorry, Veronica. Rob and I think your idea is great, but the senior leadership team is not yet convinced it is the right thing to do. They first asked us to measure the current ordering time and waiter questions to calculate the ROI. Would you be willing to start measuring that in your restaurant?”
Veronica’s response was not at all what Jill expected. She said, “Well, I have some data for you! It’s been three months since I brought up the topic with you. And since I didn’t hear back, I decided not to wait. I’ve let a local designer make a page with photos of all the noodle dishes we give our guests in addition to our normal menu. We’ve been using it in the last month and have seen a 20% increase in people picking the food that is visually shown. The serving staff also noticed people were asking fewer questions. Next month, I will ask the designer to make a visual version of all of our dishes to see what that brings us.”
Continue reading to learn about:
The cost of risk avoidance
The difference between reversible and irreversible decisions
How to handle different types of decisions with your team
Do you want access to more chapters?
I hope you enjoyed this first chapter of my upcoming book! If you’d like to access more finished chapters of the book and you’re willing to provide your feedback, please contact me to become a beta reader.
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