Monday, December 01, 2008

OK, now this was a little bit of a brain burner even for me (and we all know how much I like my noggin scorched). I asked the Hubs out of a cheap Sunday night date--books, computers, Kindle and coffee. So, I'm a cheap date. I already knew that.

Anyway, the Starbucks was the now usual dichotomy--great service in a dirty store (with the nastiest stains on the upholstery). While there, I noticed that the 10 by 10 foot area rug in the center of the seating area  wasn't very securely tacked down along one edge. I noticed it--not because I was trying to strike up a conversation with it. I tripped over it. Every single time I walked to the counter or the restroom (I did say I was drinking java, didn't I?). I felt like less of a busted ballerina when I saw a cop trip over it on his way out the door.

Um, oops!

So, before I left, I thought I'd bring it to the attention of the shop keepers. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: Excuse me. I wanted to let you know that the carpet isn't secure on that one side (pointing) and that I and one of the cops had tripped over it.

He: Yeah, I know.

Me: I saw that you'd used some other kind of tape on it. A little double sided carpet tape would take care of it.

He: You saw we'd tried to fix it already (smiling tiredly--end of shift). We were going to get some electrical tape (!) but the store'd already closed.

Me: Electrical tape?

He: We can only buy from certain stores. Our DM said if the electrical tape doesn't work, for us to get what we needed from another place.

Me: Um, OK. Night.

Now, can you guess where my tiny mind went? A 2" by 36' roll of carpet tape costs about 10 bucks (I checked). Three trips to and from the store looking for electrical and every other kind of tape costs more than that in gas alone (let alone time away from the store on the clock). In addition, the store runs the risk of lawsuit if someone tripped, carrying a steaming cup of joe or a big cuppa tea, and splashed themselves (yipes!), someone else (crap!) or a little someone else--like one of the many Christmas-togged tykes getting hot chocolate with grandma (gonna roast in hell).

By looking to fulfill the letter of the store's purchasing agreement, it failed to meet another important standard: the standard of care with respect of customer and employee safety.

I find this kind of siloed thinking quite a bit in my practice with executives drilling the rules into the heads of their direct reports such that they miss opportunities for innovation, avenues to clear roadblocks and in this instance, chances to remedy safety concerns before an injury occurs.

It's the bane of the business world--the inability to get ahead of problems or opportunties before they run their predictable and almost certain course then reacting to events to mitigate the damage.