humor, Lean management, Waiting time

Patience is a Virtue, But Not to a Waiting Customer


YOU see it everywhere: at Jollibee, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chowking and anywhere you’re forced to wait for your food, beverage or whatever. At times, when I would be intimidated by my wife to wait at a bank, department store, or supermarket, I’d be 110 percent ready to make my time productive, so you’d see me reading Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

Why not? It makes you feel justified with Tolstoy’s words: “Everything comes in time to him who knows how to wait.” However, there are 7,230 times that I would reject such false idea. Being an incurable student of work efficiency, I’m the first person to reject waiting as one of the most hateful problems in every situation. After all, waiting is a universal form of waste that robs customers on one hand, and the service provider or product manufacturer on the other, of opportunities.

Let’s study this carefully. When a customer sees a long line of customers in a restaurant, he is often confronted with four options: One is outright rejection of the situation, no matter how tasty the food is or how well the price of the merchandise on offer matches your budget. When you see a restaurant overflowing with customers, you move to a next-door competitor with fewer customers, even if they charge exorbitant rates at modest quality and quantity.

Two is to wait and reject. You enter the restaurant, join the queue, evaluate the situation, and if you feel like it’s a hopeless case, you leave the place with a smirk on your face, if not a dagger look at the unconcerned branch manager who’s checking updates on his Facebook page.

Three is related to number two above, except that you try to learn from a problem situation like that. You attempt to make a scientific analysis of things and the people around you. If there are four cash registers manned by four service crew members, with each line averaging at seven customers each, you literally and figuratively calculate the situation in your head.

You’re now occupying a queue with five customers ahead of you. Would you transfer to a shorter line or stay in line with those five who were ahead of you? Without thinking, the obvious answer is to move to a shorter line. The trouble is that – it’s not always the correct answer. Why not?

If you’re too shy to ask each person ahead of you for the volume of their order and the exact bills (it takes time to change P1,000 bill than P100), more often than not, you’ll use their age, appearance, and body shape to give you a clue on whether to move to another line or not.

For example, a late-40s management professional wearing decent clothes may order a set menu, plus a side dish and gives a P500 bill as payment. While a 20-year old college intern in her uniform may simply be satisfied for a one-piece chicken meal or plain hamburger, to be downed with a standard-size cola drink. She pays with a P100 bill, if not with an exact change, unless she fumbles looking for coins in her counterfeit Hello Kitty wallet.

But what if, the five customers (two males and three females) ahead of you are all heavyweights that approximate the size of Orca, the killer whale? If you’re not a fan of Animal Planet, chances are you know nothing about killer whales being alpha predators—meaning they are on top of the food chain and no one is interested in dealing or frolicking with them, much more in preying on them.

Would this little known fact push you to take your chance to reject a line of five Orcas in favor of a line composed of eight persons with average height, size, appetite and earning capacity?

Now, you know what I mean, except that what we know represents only one side of the clock (errr, coin). These fast food restaurants know what they’re doing best to reduce the customers’ waiting time.

That’s why you encounter student part-time crew members taking advance orders while you’re on the line during peak hours, among other waiting time reduction strategies.

Then you also wonder, among others, why Jollibee and McDonald’s use the multi-server (several cash registers) and multi-line (several customers queue) approach, compared with Starbucks’ single-server (one cash register) and multi-phase (one cash register and one order pick-up point)?

Which one is better in appeasing customers who have every right to vote with their feet?

SOURCE: This article was first published on June 13, 2016 by The Manila Times under the title “The Science of Waiting Time at a Fast Food.” Image credit goes to

Lean management, Lean service, Security protocol

Redundant work is your first clue to downsizing

Picture1I’VE been seriously thinking how the security industry is making a killing in the civilian world. They’re taking advantage of their clients’ gullibility (or partnership in crime) by deploying as many guards as possible in and out, if not around our offices, shopping malls, office buildings, factories, and car parks. Even in the presence of CCTV cameras and electronic sensors, you wonder why human intervention by security guards is still needed.

When you enter a car park building, you’d be amused, if not annoyed at two control centers that will screen your body parts and car model. The first one is a computer monitor where you swipe your ID card and as soon as the aluminum boom is lifted, you’d be halted by a second control, this time by at least two guards who will ask your full name, inspect and record your car model and plate number – as if you’re trying to enter the Pentagon.

At grocery stores, you can see security guards checking your receipt and routinely compare it with the merchandise you’re bringing out, in their mindless attempt to mock the capacity of million-peso worth of electronic sensors that they say are nothing compared to face-to-face human control powered by a 12-hour work shift, which is a standard industry practice.

That’s not all. Almost every day, you can see traffic enforcers on the road, trying to justify their physical existence by vigorously waving their hands to motorists, unmindful of a well-functioning traffic light system. Sometimes, they have the bold capacity to make the automated lights irrelevant by waving a “stop” sign to motorists for no apparent reasons (like a screening ambulance carrying mentally-incapacitated politicos), when the green light is on, and vice-versa.

When you talk to these people, you’ll be met by a blank stare, and with a soft, almost in a calm voice, they’ll tell you – “it’s better to be despised than to have a security breach” or words with the same effect as if they’re potential heroes willing to sacrifice their lives and limbs to bring to justice a 62-year old terrorist.

Imagine that foolishness under the guise of a well-intentioned security protocol. But in truth, such cumbersome procedure, more than anything is displaying a ridiculous objective of getting as much money from customers, if not make their lives difficult. “No, these electronic sensors and CCTV cameras are not enough,” security agency personnel are wont to say.

That’s why you can see security overkill everywhere where a computer is pitted against manong (uncle) guard as if it’s an eternal, everyday duel between Deep Blue and world chess champion Gary Kasparov. Seriously, take it as a good example. How can human beings susceptible to fatigue, stress, and personal problems, among others win against today’s computers?

This is not to mention the thousands of people they’re screening every hour, every day contributing to the security guard’s fatigue.

Since the time of Deep Blue-Kasparov chess match in 1997, computer programs have progressed many times over to prove that machine can beat man, much more security personnel who are on their toes, 12 hours a day, and six days a week.

Extra processing is everywhere. It’s a detestable act, but many of you can’t understand them unless you remove your blinders. It’s similar in intensity to a mindless procedure of requiring a dozen signature in a government transaction worth less than P1,000. In the private sector, you can also see this happening in the approval procedure of an application for a one-day vacation leave of hapless workers, who must wait to secure the signature of at least three command-and-control, stupid bosses.

Theoretically, extra processing is a form of waste under lean management. It must be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Why not?

Multiply over-processing to a good number of security personnel doing duplicate to triplicate jobs in several outposts or outlets, 30 days a month, 12 times a year and you’ll readily come out with millions of pesos down the drain or into the pockets of unprincipled office managers who are in the payroll of these equally immoral people from security agencies.

Of course, this is not a general indictment of those people, including those at the Ayala Center as shown in the above photograph. But in many cases elsewhere, we can’t help but think that some managers are simply imprudent and don’t know what they’re doing. Now, can you imagine this happening in thousands of government offices around the country?

NOTE: This article was first published on April 4, 2016 by The Manila Times.