They say the best ideas are the simplest ones. At Pizza Express, the restaurant chain, it was all about the lemons. Who should chop them?
by GUEST EDITOR John Fox
It used to be the waiter's job, the first thing he or she did when they arrived for work in the morning.
That way all the lemons were sliced and ready to drop into orders of water or cola for the rest of the day.
But then one of the pizza chefs said it just didn't make any sense. The chefs spent all morning chopping and dicing the toppings for pizzas.
Waiters, by contrast, had to take a break from their usual tasks, wash their hands, clear a space and then clean up after themselves.
So it was decided - henceforth, across Pizza Express' almost 500 outlets globally, chefs would be in charge of lemons.
"Just by changing who chops the lemons, we were able to make a significant saving in hours which translates into a significant financial saving," says Richard Hodgson, Pizza Express' chief executive.
Pizza Express' efficiency saving on lemons was simplicity itself. Not only are the lemons now chopped faster, but because the work is being undertaken by chefs well used to chopping and dicing, the output lemon pieces are thinner and more uniform in size and shape. Plus the organisation saves on employee time.
The financial saving achieved as a result of this small tweak to a kitchen process, suggested by a pizza chef, has meant the organisation has realised significant cost savings since the change was introduced at all outlets.
For lemons, read 'digital transformation'
Digital transformation process re-engineering is remarkably similar to chopping up lemons and I believe there are some great lessons to be taken away from the Pizza Express experience.
Firstly, the suggestion to improve efficiency came from staff members. Very often it is the frontline staff who are able to spot ways in which business processes might be improved by the implementation of really very simple changes. A business analyst can take an initial suggestion and explore further options or ways of working in order to achieve an improvement, either in process time or to reduce costs.
Secondly, there is the disruptive element, although in this instance I guess you might refer to it as 'reverse disruptive'. The process at Pizza Express was disruptive in that before the change space had to be made to accommodate the waiting staff's chopping activity, whereas now the chopping takes place in the food preparation area along with other foodstuffs and no special preparation is necessary. This transformation has removed a disruption rather than created one!
Digital transformation means introducing technology solutions that help break down silos, boost cross-team collaboration, drive the end-to-end customer experience, and engage more deeply with customers.
To be successful, digital transformation need to go beyond technology enablement and include organisational and cultural transformation. It’s easier to implement technology innovations than to change habits and culture. Technology is only the catalyst for cultural and organisational transformation. You need human input as well.
Pizza Express' lemons scenario did not, as far as I can tell, involve technology innovation (unless you count a chef's array of knives perhaps), but I believe it provides a compelling example of business transformation at its simplest.
The core goal of any digital transformation should be to transform into a highly collaborative customer-focused organisation, away from a functional business unit-led organisation. That's going to require examinations of business processes to identify potential efficiencies, eg automating a process using a technology solution, but don't forget your biggest asset in the process: your staff.
The role of communications in digital transformation
I believe that company culture is the elephant in the digital transformation room. To effect a significant change in that culture, the communications function has a critical role to play.
I recently worked with a government organisation that had not sufficiently considered the role of their communications function in the mix of effecting a lasting change in their corporate culture. There was a great digital strategy at the executive level, and most managers were on message, but digital transformation was not being adequately explained to all staff, and nor were these staff members being given opportunity to suggest ways in which current business processes might be simplified, automated or otherwise use digital technology to improve customer outcomes.
Communications professionals have a great eye for ‘angles’ or opportunities to tell a story in an engaging way. If you’re involved in a digital transformation project, I encourage you to find out whether you have a lemon chopping story to share with colleagues. Leave no stone unturned in your quest for the unusual or extraordinary that others may have overlooked or simply disregarded.
You’re bound to find some brilliant stories that can be creatively shaped to a culture change programme to promote real and lasting digital transformation across the organisation.
John Fox is an independent digital transformation consultant seeking a permanent position.
Picture credit: Camera Eye photography / Flickr.