What Roast Dinners Can Teach Us About Process

Understanding the optimal time to perform an action or a communication can make all the difference. Bad timing can lead to dissatisfied customers and friction between teams!

By simply considering all of the stages in a customer journey, and implementing the right steps at the right time during your process, you can improve the customer experience dramatically and reduce wasted time and cost.


How often have you sat down at a restaurant, enjoying your favourite roast dinner, only for the server to get it horribly wrong? I love a good roast, with an extra helping of gravy and horseradish on the side. But all too often, the server will only remember to ask what condiments I’d like after they’ve brought out the main meal. If the restaurant is busy, they take out other orders, forget about our table, and by the time my horseradish and extra gravy arrives, I’ve eaten my food or it’s gone cold, sans horseradish. It’s not a big deal, but it definitely lessens my enjoyment, which is the whole point behind going to a restaurant. My biggest issue is that it happens almost every time you have a roast dinner.


Here’s the thing: a slight process change and it’s fixed at no cost. If the restaurant changes the process to ask customers if they want condiments with their food when they place the order, they could bring those condiments with the main meal or the starters. Timing is as important a part of the process as the process itself.


Why Timing Matters

Understanding the optimal time to perform an action or a communication can make all the difference. Bad timing can lead to dissatisfied customers, friction between teams, and even the failure of initiatives that would have been successful if they were timed differently. This is true for nearly every aspect of the business.


Suppose you are hiring someone to join your team. Most people seem to default to a standard recruitment process and it goes like this; . The company identifies the skills they need for the job, writes a job spec, receives CVs, and filters out the candidates that they feel have the right experience. Then, they interview the candidates. And it’s typically at the interview stage when you people first ask the question, “How do I test whether the candidates have the skills I need?”


But interviewing is often not a great way to test whether your candidates have the right skills. Say you want to test for literary ability or organisational skills , those things are very hard to test for in an interview but you can easily test for them by say asking for a covering letter from candidates or by setting some form of test prior to interview.


Just thinking through the question "How do I test for the skills I require" at the start of the process rather than waiting until you perform the first interview can help you increase your chances of finding the best candidate and save you time in unnecessary interviews.


That’s the real problem with timing. It rarely takes succession into account. The HR department has done their job, which was finding candidates. They aren’t taking the needs of the hiring manager doing the interviews and making the final decision into account, or making his life easier. No one has done anything wrong, per se, but they haven’t got a good process in place to make the life of the person who picks up the task during the next stage any easier.


I’ve often seen this in software companies. Developers release a new iteration or add features to an existing product and proudly announce the launch, only to be met with extreme dismay from nearly every other department that hasn’t had enough time to familiarize themselves with the changes. The lack of communication at an early stage impacts nearly everyone else tasked with selling or supporting the software. Sales people end up demo-ing products they don’t understand, and come across as unprofessional. Customer support is inundated with calls from clients who don’t understand the new features, and they can’t help them. Marketing could have easily compiled manuals and FAQs, but they didn’t have the information early on.


The product isn’t at fault. It’s probably everything that clients have been asked for for months. It’s been rigorously tested and developed according to customer needs. But instead of welcoming the change, customers are on the phone saying, “I wish you never changed this!”


Timing is often the cause of friction between sales teams and implementation teams. Sales teams do everything in their power to push a contract over the line, and then hand off their clients to the implementation teams who have the bad luck of informing clients that they need additional information, materials or preparations before they can actually go live. This leads to disgruntled customers and finger-pointing between the various teams - even with no one being at fault! After all, both teams have done their jobs. The sales team has closed the deal, and the implementation team needs the data to proceed. But if the sales staff had a process in place to collect the necessary data before the final contract was signed, the customer experience could have been so much better.


Without operating a process that considers the end goal, people will always default to the most logical way of doing their jobs, with tunnel vision that focuses purely on the scope of their own roles, and not the next stage of the customer journey. Even if all of the elements in your process are correct, and staff are doing their jobs to the best of their ability, introducing them at the wrong time can have devastating consequences.


Getting Timing Right

By simply considering all of the stages in a customer journey, and implementing the right steps at the right time during your process, you can improve the customer experience dramatically and reduce wasted time and cost.


Add steps and tasks at each appropriate stage that takes the next person and next stage into account. Make sure that it’s formalized and understood by each and every role player.


Not having a process in place that takes timing into account makes about as much sense as a waiter serving a bowl of horseradish with your dessert. If the right steps are in place, at the wrong time, the entire experience is tainted.