According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks Corp. has turned to Mr. Potato Head (MPH) to help reduce waste and deliver more drinks with the same or fewer people. MPH of course, is a toy that has been around since the 1950s but has new life as a training tool.
Starbucks employees are being asked to reassemble a dismembered MPH as a way to help them think of ways they can be more efficient. Lean has evolved from Six Sigma that was first implemented in the U.S. by Motorola in the late 1980s. It is a formal method used to improve their business and production processes. It has been adopted by organizations representing a variety of products and services ranging from Bank of America, Amazon.com, Honeywell, General Electric, the U.S. Navy and more.
I find it is interesting the MPH exercise results in the same potato. You would think they might create a new slimmer version. Starbucks began as a lean mean bean but has become a rather portly bean. People did not start going to Starbucks because they could get their coffee fast or breakfast or lunch, etc. They went there for the passionate coffee experience. See my blog: It took a bean. http://www.cairnsblaner.com/weblog/pivot/entry.php?id=19.
Starbucks is a company who influenced the culture of America. However, they have let the American culture change them. Now that culture is based on low cost, convenience and speed. I understand the pressure that McDonald’s, Dunkin and others are placing on them but Starbucks needs to return to their first passion. It is about the coffee experience.
Every day at least once a day for the past year my colleagues in Washington, DC took a two block walk to Starbucks. We passed other coffee purveyors along the way as we talked about life and business. I am back in California now and I miss those walks. I hope that MPH can help bring back the lean mean passionate bean.