Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm Sorry I Broke Your Company (Karen Phelan)

One of the frustrating things that I experienced while in the restaurant business was the one size fits all management model. A few times a year, a district manager would come up, perform an inspection, tell you what you were doing wrong (based on your sales figures, the extent that the store was clean, and the previous hour of watching only the best employees). The restaurant would prep for the entire week before such an inspection, cleaning things that had not been cleaned since the last inspection; the very worst employees were conveniently given the day off. And none of the advice, one was given by the district manager could actually be used. As an employee, I hated the whole routine.

I learned to hate the whole routine even more when I became a restaurant manager. I had the misfortune of being in the only location of a restaurant chain located in a business district, rather than a shopping mall. For instance, one would be given the advice to "Sample and coupon. Sample and coupon. Sample and coupon." This advice worked great at the shopping malls. It did not work at all where I was managing--coupons just lowered sales figures; it turns out that all our customers knew where we were already, and therefore it was just the loss of a warm body that you could have used in more productive ways and of lower total ticket sales than you would have got otherwise because the only coupons used were by people who were already coming to buy something.

Nevertheless, the advice of the district manager, or owner of a chain, was considered holy writ...even if you know ahead of time that it would not work. Woe be he who openly pointed out the fact that the advice was unsound for the situation at hand. And talking to my customers, I learned that we were all putting up with such antics.

Karen Phelan, in her book, I'm Sorry I Broke Your Company: When Management Consultants Are the Problem, Not the Solution, basically explains why such antics are put forth by companies as the correct behavior. She also explained why I could not get promoted to restaurant manager without becoming the last man standing--oh, I was less than perfect kitchen help and cashier--ironically, I was a really good manager despite the fact that I was not perfect in the previous positions.

I would recommend  this book to anyone trying to understand why consultants (and district managers) tend to make things worse...or at least, harder to actually accomplish anything. I would also recommend it to anyone who thinks that hiring a business consultant is a magic bullet that is going to increase their bottom line and/or save their business.

I am giving this book five stars.

[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author in a GoodReads First Reads giveway.]

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