Push Decisions to the Edge

This last Saturday I stopped for a bagel. I went to the bagel chain named after a relatively smart guy. I ordered an everything bagel with chive cream cheese, my favorite!  I then asked if they had chai and the clerk said, “All we have is coffee.” I looked up at the wall and from the list there I ordered an iced mocha. I’ve been doing the low carb thing and wanted a treat - Saturday is my cheat day. The clerk replied again, “All we have is coffee.” I pointed to the wall, with a confused dog look on my face, and he told me that, “corporate made them put the sign up even though they can’t make any of those fancy drinks and won’t let them take it down.”  I could tell by the lilt of irritation in his voice he has to answer this question way too many times a day.

Having worked retail for a decade, I groaned inwardly. This is what happens when people don’t have the autonomy to do their jobs and when they’re not trusted to make good decisions based on a clear corporate vision. If I were asked to write a vision for them based on my recent experience it would be, “We want to torture our employees by treating them like children and by encouraging customers to ask them questions that make us look foolish. We want our all of our customers to have the same choices at every store regardless of our ability to deliver.” I searched high and low on their website and couldn’t find a vision statement, shocking! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to fix this but it does take some autonomy, clear corporate vision and some trust or perhaps some canny outlaws.