More on the McDonald’s Revival

The New York Times yesterday had an excellent feature on the revival of McDonald’s over the past five years (here).  I don’t quite buy this characterization of the change by Bob Goldin at Technomics, however.

[T]he McDonald’s rebound had been singular because of its simplicity: “execute the basics, flawlessly.” He described the McDonald’s strategy as “three yards and a cloud of dust,” adding that “it’s not revolution stuff.”

I’m not sure what revolution looks like… a new format, new menu items, new hours, etc.?  My guess is that commentators are looking for a visible manifestation of wrenching change.  But perhaps the revolution at McDonald’s is in the way it can implement change.  From a franchisor, Ken Hullings:

It seemed like every other month I was putting something on the menu or taking something off, he says. We were looking for that magic bullet, that magic pill. And I think what we realized that it wasn’t just one thing.

I think that there’s a better football analogy for this business approach — the West Coast offense (especially Bill Walsh’s version).  This approach is in many ways conservative and disciplined, yet enables diversity and unpredictability in one’s play calling.  It also values players who can react in real-time to the unfolding competitive enviroment (i.e., the defense).  In fact, it sounds an awful lot like what the IBM Global Survey (here) envisioned as:

The Enterprise of the Future [which] embraces unpredictability as the new routine…

PM Quote of the Day — George Eliot

It is never too late to be what you might have been. 

What if you haven’t started college and you’re about to turn 30?  When you’re 34 will you be happier with a degree or without one (and still saying you’re too old to get one)?

What if you don’t make VP by the time you’re 40?  Does that mean you’re washed up?  What will you do with the rest of your life?

We set — or accept the imposition of — arbitrary milestones for success so early in our lives.  But do so they make any sense at all, especially considering that many of us will live well into our 80s?  Perhaps our greatest achievements are far ahead in our futures…

  • George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to win the heavyweight championship AND introduced the George Foreman Grill at age 45.
  • Ray Kroc didn’t start the McDonald’s that we know today until he was 53.
  • Satchel Paige pitched three shutout innings in the major leagues at age 59.
  • Michelangelo was over 70 when he finished the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. 
  • Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until her 70s.  
  • Goethe was over 80 when he finished Faust. 

My worst management advice (received not given)

I was commenting on Phil’s post on “Worst Management Advice” (here).  My comment ended up so long that I thought it would be worth manually copying, revising, and posting below:

The worst advice I’ve heard has come in a number of variants, but the basic jist always was: “You have to monitor your employees like a prison guard or [insert negative outcome here] will happen.”

The most extreme instance was when I took over a troubled McDonald’s in downtown DC.  The incumbent manager told me: “You have to watch this gang [crew and management] like hawks — they’re all thieves.”  Of course, she was wrong.  It turned out that only two employees were making off with merchandise.  Oh, and the other thief was a vendor.

What I like to call “The KGB Way” is the lazy manager’s substitute for detecting, analyzing, and correcting exceptions and opportunities.  Continuing the McDonald’s example, the incumbent had alienated her crew and management team.  She was getting precious little cooperation and respect.  Showing a little trust and spending a day doing a root cause analysis (they teach you this at McD’s BTW), allowed me to focus on appropriate “suspects” and established my credibility (the crew knew very well who had sticky fingers were).

The kicker was that this “gang” contained a future McDonald’s franchise owner, a future McDonald’s executive, and two future Marine officers. Not bad for a bunch of thieves…

“How to wake up early” blog…

One of the most unique blog themes I’ve seen is the how to wake up early? blog.  It hasn’t been updated in a while, perhaps all that early rising takes its toll.  However, there are lots of spot-on tips about how to become an early riser (if one is so inclined, of course).

My early career was spent at McDonald’s, and I did a lot of closing, which suited my night owl nature.  Of course, when I got promoted to store manager, I needed to be there to open the store.  That involves lots of 4 AM wake-up calls for 5 AM to 4 PM shifts.  I used the multiple alarm clock trick — my best trick was a 10 minutes wake>shower>dress routine — but I did pull some spectacular late opening acts. 

One time, I woke up late and was scrambling to get out the door.  I was very pissed and using a number of colorful metaphors to describe my predicament.  Apparently, I was cursing using colorful metaphors at quite a high volume, for when I ran out the door to my car I nearly ran into two police officers striding up my walk.  It seems my language and volume prompted the neighbors to call the cops — it sounded like someone was being killed.  The cops got a big kick out of my tale…like all shift workers they had empathy for over-sleeping.

Of course, I probably was simply subconsciously previewing the reaction of my boss when I finally showed up.  Luckily I wasn’t the last one there…like they say about outrunning the alligator.  It doesn’t matter if I can out run the alligator, only if I can outrun my companion.

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