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Showing Initiative – A True Story

September 11, 2015

Although I was in Portland this week, I reflected over an experience I had last week while traveling. I went out for dinner and had similar things happen, but with totally opposite results. In the first case I wanted to order my meal and was told they were out of what I wanted. I then tried again, but received the same answer. I tried a third and fourth time and each time I received the same answer: “We are sold out of that and we don’t get our food shipment until tomorrow morning.” I ended up putting down some money for my iced tea and leaving to go someplace else. How can you operate a restaurant when you are out of meat, poultry, fish, noodles, and greens? And yes, my attempts were in that order <grin>. What was even more frustrating was each time I asked the waiter played the victim as he walked back to the kitchen, asked, and then came back to tell me “try again.” It wasn’t his fault, he explained, his “…manager hadn’t ordered enough produce this time around.”

Now, this very same week I went to another restaurant and thought I was going to have a déjà vu moment. I ordered and the waitress came back to tell me that they were out of what I had selected. Now here is where the story differs… The waitress went on to say “…our manager isn’t here, but the busboy decided to run down the block to get some groceries and should be back in less than 20 minutes. Would you like to order something else or would you prefer to wait?” She then went on to make a recommendation based on what she knew they had. In my case I decided to wait. I later saw the busboy sprint through the front door, rather winded, toting three to four plastic grocery bags. I also saw her bus some of her own tables while the busboy was out. I read some news articles and some of my current book on my Kindle while I waited and then went on to have a very enjoyable meal.

Why am I sharing this story? Based on my previous experience just a couple of days earlier I was inspired by the initiative shown by the employees at this second restaurant. At the first restaurant all of the employees had given up and were waiting for something to happen outside of their job descriptions. It wasn’t their fault they had run out of produce before their next deliveries for that week. As a customer asking them for things they were out of I was even beginning to become annoying to them. However, at the second restaurant, an employee who had nothing to do with food procurement or preparation decided to solve the problem to help his teammates out. Those employees at the second restaurant showed great initiative to do the right things for the right reasons to ensure that their company delivered the best product and experience possible to their customers.

I was really inspired by that busboy. So much so I made a note to share this experience with anybody who would listen. I hope you are inspired too.

In Agile it isn’t about job titles or job descriptions; it isn’t about tossing things over the wall via e-mail or ticket to some other team member, functional group, or department – it is about doing the right things for the right reasons in an effort to delight customers in a timely manner.

Agile is about real-time collaboration to solve a problem, divide the work, and push through it vs. waiting.

I’d like to thank all who understand and practice that across Agile teams today. You too are inspiring…  The rest of you?  Perhaps pretend you work at the second restaurant?  😀

Best,
-Mark

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