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How to standardize the "art" of what you do

How to standardize the "art" of what you do

November 30, 2017

When was the last time you took your kids to McDonald's, KFC or grabbed a latte at a Starbucks?

Ever noticed that regardless which branch you visited in any location in the world, the service, product and experience is virtually the same?

Franchises are masters of standardization. But here’s the piece that few realize.

Most think that the secret of standardization lies in the “science”- the how-to’s, exact recipes and operations. And while it’s true that without meticulous standardization of their operations the franchises would never get off the ground, it’s not the ultimate secret to their success.

The success of many massive companies lies in the standardization of the “art”- the thinking.

Let’s take a look at one of the most successful franchise in history: McDonald's.

In 1954, Ray Kroc stumbled across two brothers who owned a small hamburger shop in San Bernardino, California. At the time, he was a struggling salesman of Prince Castle’s multimixer and these two brothers were his best customers. So out of curiosity he decided to visit them to understand what they were doing with his mixers.

Once there he became intrigued by the concept as he saw the potential of this humble restaurant and offered to be their national agent before buying them out in 1961. At this point there were 700 restaurants established nationwide and a need to standardize operations for all franchises.

At first, like most business owners, he began with the tangible aspects of the restaurant, standardizing the portion sizes, food preparation, packaging and ingredients. However, as McDonald's grew into an international enterprise, he saw an opportunity to transform burgers and fries into an empire.

Kroc understood what so few during his time did. He did something revolutionary. He built “Hamburger University.”

Now don’t be fooled by the name. Hamburger University is a far cry from a few burger flipping tutorials. In fact, all of the food on site is fake! It’s now an exclusive program that’s more exclusive than Harvard, accepting only 1% of its applicants with over 4,000 campuses worldwide.

So what do they do there? It’s all about the “art.”

At Hamburger University, aspiring McDonald’s managers or owners learn the soft-skills. They’re taught leadership skills, decision making processes, team building and business strategy. They instill the value of customer service.

They set up an entire mock restaurant where they mimic the various challenges the managers or owners will face. A customer loses it and starts yelling at the workers, the fries burn, one of the staff members messes up an order. The professors observe, assess, then provide detailed feedback.

Ray Kroc was one of the first in the corporate world to realize that these skills can’t be left to chance. They can’t just be learned on the job. They need to be formally taught.

Now, if you’re a mid-sized business owner it’s easier said than done. You’re busy taking care of the Important and Urgent tasks vying for your already limited time. Unfortunately, training often falls way at the bottom of the priority list.

Let me re-frame it. If you don’t spend the time simplifying and codifying the “art” behind what you do, you’ll never get free. You will be the only one in your business who can do “it,” whatever that is. You’re choosing not to build an asset, but a glorified job.

If all you do is teach people the basic “how-to’s” and all of your manuals are operational, you’ve set yourself up to perpetually work in your business instead of on it.

Take a moment and think about the last time you trained an employee.

What was the focus? What percentage of it was the “science” behind a job? Did you explain the thought process? Did you go through the subtleties of the relationship building, decision-making process, managerial skills or whatever else the situation called for?

Below are 4 simple strategies to teach the “art," the thinking behind a job:

1. Allocate Regular Time

It might seem too basic to mention. But I promise you, if you don’t schedule time for it, it won’t happen. It’s that simple. Build training into your calendar, make it part of your employee’s KPIs. If not, you’ll always have something else tugging at you and it’ll get pushed to the side.

2. Role Play

Hamburger University was built on this principle. Pretend to be the customer, supplier, or employee and let your trainee be the other role. This is allows you to mimic a difficult scenario in a safe way, and allows you, the owner to provide real, pointed guidance for how to handle such a scenario.

3. Record It

When you’re in a situation that your employee may be in one day- high-end sales call, negotiating a deal with a supplier, interviewing a potential employee, let your trainee listen in or record it. Now be mindful of privacy, you’ll need consent in most cases. But I can’t tell you how helpful this is for your team to see in real-time how you handle a situation. Although you may share the experience afterwards, there’s nothing like listening in to the real conversation or meeting.

4. Outsource It

Don’t have the time or money to create your own Hamburger University? That’s fine. Outsource it! Invest in your employees and hire outside training consultants or courses. It won’t drain your time personally and can provide your employees with guidance and support. It may turn out to be one of the best investments you’ve ever made.

Without the “science”- your company can’t operate. But without the “art”- your company can’t think.

Slow down to speed up. Ask yourself, what steps can I take in 2018 to standardize the art of what we do?

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,