Business Change and the Bagel

There is a recent post on the HBR blog focussing on the impact of silos on business improvement by way of a fabel on sandwich making.  This fabel relates the tale of a waiter who understands the customers exact requirements for a sandwich, but fails to correct kitchn staff when they get it wrong.  The conclusion is that the waiter was not “brave enough” and that the organisation was not committed enough to giving the customer what he wanted.

Like all business fabels there is a degree of truth in it, however in real life the situation is much more complicated – transparency and joint responsibility must be across the company with no sacred cows.  All too often the transparency is partial and sacred cows grow up such as not revising budgets when they are clearly not going to be met, sales targets which drift month on month because senior management is too nervous about reporting the slippage to Group.  Sacred cows prevent free communication and can lead to people in other areas “keeping their head down” and thus not providing input into difficult areas.

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