Enterprise Excellence

Lunch breaks reviewed through the lens of ‘efficiency’

What if.. one employee manages the orders and payments, while another one butters slices of bread with dazzling speed?
Pieter Savenberg

‘Having lunch’ is a phrase that for many ‘Möbians’ (this is the name by which we, consultants at Möbius, prefer to be known) equals ‘a quick dash to the local sandwich bar, to munch a sandwich behind your laptop’. This is not because we are not sociable or are averse to chatting with our colleagues during lunch. Such a claim could not be further from the truth.

But is it not a curious fact that so many of our colleagues have their lunches at their computers, although we are allowed a full hour to enjoy our lunch? I think this might be because efficiently using our own working hours is so deeply ingrained in our psyches: we strive each day to get the maximum results from the time that we dedicate to our customers. Continuing to work during lunch simply means that we can analyse more workload assessments, formulate service delivery concepts, optimise supply chains, and work on the whole gamut of things that keep a consultant busy on weekdays.

Unfortunately though, the efficiency of our own lunches is not always under our control: for example, we often spend more time in the queue at the sandwich bar than we take to actually eat a sandwich. I didn’t know this sandwich bar was quite so popular, you mutter quietly to yourself. No, the reason for the long waits is not a sudden onslaught of customers, but instead, it is a simple issue of the service delivery process (you do understand that as consultants we study life – most certainly so during working hours – through the cold, penetrating lens of “efficiency”).

I would therefore like to offer the following free advice to the operator of that sandwich bar – that shall remain unnamed (hint: in pseudo-Spanish, the name of the bar refers to an object with which one can cook!). Queuing theory teaches us that a customer’s average waiting time can be significantly reduced by performing various system processes in parallel, as opposed to executing the same processes sequentially. Thus for example: it would be much faster to organize the buttering of bread in parallel with the payment and delivery processes.

Just look at the better fast food chains: you order and make your payment to one employee, while another employee is simultaneously working at cooking your hamburgers. After you have placed and paid for your order, the cashier is immediately free to serve the next customer. Employees who prepare the burgers are already working on your order even as you key-in your PIN number to make your payment.

Therefore, dear sandwich bar manager, our consultants and your – otherwise extremely charming – staff members will both have a more enjoyable – and indeed more efficient – lunch time rush hour if each of your co-workers performs a separate process, instead of each employee making sandwiches and managing payments. Thus one employee could manage the orders and payments, while another could butter slices of bread with dazzling speed – the result? That queue will melt like snow in the sun before your very eyes.

Your loyal customer,


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