Is This Future Shock?

musings on how technology is changing my business environment

Fast food outlets & professional communities

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Quincy Market

Why can’t we have a chip shop?

Having come back from a lovely holiday in Boston & Iceland, I wondered if I had any inspiration for a blog post. I do, a little.

In Boston, I stayed near to Quincy Market, an old market hall, now jammed full of fast food outlets. There must be over 50, serving pizza, teriyaki, clams, lobster rolls, steak sandwiches, moussaka, sorbet, hot dogs, burritos, caramels, ice cream and way more stuff.

At home, in the little Highland village I live in, we have no fast food outlet. A couple of pubs will let you get food to take out, and the wood-fired pizza restaurant will give you pizza to go.

Why so many in one hall in Boston, and none in an entire village?

Well, there could be all sorts of reasons – yes, there will be more customers, as Boston is a busier place. But why in that one hall?

  • It’s a good place to buy fast food – so customers will come from some distance.
  • It’s a good place to sell fast food – so suppliers will come from all over
  • There’s a wide range of things to buy – so a customer can meet their needs there
  • If you can’t sell a meal there, you could still sell a dessert, a drink, coffee – as there are so many suppliers and customers together. If there’s a lot of demand for something, you betcha there will be people starting to provide it. [Like, clam chowder. *Lots* of places sell that in Boston!]

We don’t have the outlets crowded together, pulling the customers way into the Highlands – so we don’t even get a chippy!

Quality through Competition

I’m sure the outlets in Quincy Market vary in quality. The worst I saw was Good, as you wouldn’t survive in the maelstrom of competition there, if your food wasn’t acceptable. Most of the the experience was Very Good, and the teriyaki experience was Outstanding for fast food.

So?

Trying to rank those outlets from 1-5, say, when looking at my worldwide catering experiences [which include British roadside cafes] would result in everything in Quincy’s market being 3-5 (more probably 4-5, but work with me on this).

Why are they better – because they learn from each other, all the time. If one offers free samples – so will another. If you can get your chowder in a bread bowl in one… another will offer something similar or better.

If you did rank them them from 1-5… the lowest (1 ranked) place would be a 3 against most British outlets – and that makes it a little hard to use a global ranking…

Professional Communities

I won’t apologise for riding my hobby horse again; I think professional communities have a lot to offer – and are one of the best ways you can lift performance, professionalism, accreditation and interest amongst a group.

Lots of professionals

You want a project manager? Good place to find one might be your putative “Programme & Project Management” Community. There’ll be a lot there, and they *should* be supporting each other and helping the level of certification and experience. They’ll learn hints and tips from each other.

Hey, maybe your project/bid manager needs a service wrap? Natch, there’ll be a service designer there who should be able to assist the team.

Lots of demand

As you have all these customers walking up to take services from your communities, you should get a damn fine idea of what these customers want. If you *don’t* have the Ruby on Rails guy, maybe there’s some other service you can provide the customer… while you think “Hmm, might need to get some RoR guys available”.

Explaining ranking

In a community of professionals, you generally have a self selecting group of achievers. There will be folk that are Good; some Very Good; and even a few Outstanding. Generally, if you aren’t at least Good – you won’t have had the wherewithal to make it into a community.

Now, if you force rank the individuals in the community… sure, you can do it. Take the people who’re in external terms good, and mark some of them as, say Generally Satisfactory or (kiss of death) Needs Improvement.

This is Vitality Curve behaviour – particularly if there’s a mechanistic approach to invoking HR involvement in bureacratic Performance Improvement Plans. Which there is, in large swathes of corporate Britain.

Vitality Curve damages Communities?

I’ve alluded previously to my concerns about this sort of approach.

I *need* to look better than you. Rather than spending time sharing my knowledge, or increasing my skills, it might pay me better to game the system.

So, rather than sharing my knowledge with people, I have to consider how I can look best at showing how much more I know than everyone else, and the most public way I can show how I’m sharing this knowledge.

Otherwise, I might not get marked Good, won’t recieve a bonus, and likely won’t get a pay rise.

Even better, if I get the opportunity to use a modified COTS “Performance management” system, and produce reams of impenetrable evidence, I’ll be able to show *what* I’ve done – even if it uses time I should spend on work…

On the other hand…

If you want Professional Communities… maybe let them manage themselves. Professionally. Not with advice from Neutron Jack.

Picture Credit Me!

Written by SteveEllwood

May 30th, 2008 at 3:40 pm