Bad Policies? Or Just Bad Management?

Some of you know I have a minor addiction to a particular fast food restaurant. It’s good for them that I do, because they experienced an epic fail a while back.

They had a particular featured menu item I could have wildly consumed every day. I knew these kinds of things always have a limited duration, so before the time ran out, I hit the drive-through and found that my local restaurant had run out of the container lids for the featured menu item.

No big deal, right? They could use a different container, right? Wrong. The drive-through person said they couldn’t possibly sell them any other way. Restaurant policy. They couldn’t possibly use any other packaging. Even if I came inside to order – which wouldn’t require a lid! – they couldn’t possibly sell it at the counter because they couldn’t sell it at the drive-through window. Restaurant policy.

(This means they had to be telling people at the counter that they couldn’t possibly sell an item inside at the counter because they couldn’t sell it at the drive-through. “I’m sorry sir, I can’t sell you this here, because we can’t sell it there.” I can only imagine how many customers were bewildered by that!)

As it turned out, they couldn’t possibly persuade me to order anything else except a drink, either, because I couldn’t possibly believe they’d refuse the sale for the sake of a piece of plastic. “Management troubles, huh?” I asked the cashier who handed me my drink. She looked surprised, then concerned. “Uh, no, we just didn’t get the lids.” She gave a nervous laugh.

This is a minor incident. But it also has some major signs of failing management.

  • The obvious problem with inventory isn’t a policy issue. It means poor use (and maintenance) of resources.
  • Employees more content to sit than think or resolve an issue, which means a massive lack of leadership. If policy forbids them from being proactive, that’s still a bad sign.
  • For this inventory or ordering issue to go wrong, there’s miscommunication either inside the location or between the location and supply.
  • This means there’s no sense of teamwork, or somebody (like a manager) should have been aware of it and quickly worked to fix the problem.
  • Lowered productivity (from a reduced menu, from not needing to be proactive) lets morale drop – another sign of bad management in a busy environment.
  • This naturally leads to a crisis mode within the restaurant. Work isn’t done. Blame and backstabbing escalate, good employees bail out, and management “cracks down” by becoming dictatorial without changing anything.

This kind of failure is why many corporate business leaders are thinking management is dead. As a business strategy, it’s unreliable and a bit obsolete compared to more proactive leadership concepts.

If you’re seeing these problems – or anything that just seems off – in your own business, it’s a red flag. Take a step back and – with your team – objectively evaluate what’s going on, how it happened, and how everyone can work to fix it.

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