"Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand" - labor pr

I brought this quote over as it covers some good materials for discussion. What’s reactions to this philosophy of personnel management? Effective, misdirected, have some pieces of use?

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Most of this philosophy comes from my own personal experience, both in the retail/restaurant sector and in the tech work that I did when I was younger. A lot of the newer tech companies have found that people will work much harder using a system like mine than they will in a traditional office hierarchy system, Microsoft being one great example of a company culture that is non-traditional but very effective. When I worked out there, it really was a fun place to work, they didn’t care how you got the work done so long as you hit your deadlines and the work was good. They gave you free soda and energy drinks, good food and free beer on Fridays, and tracking your hours was extremely lassez faire. The funny thing was, having the freedom to slack made us work like demons because we were so happy to be there and wanted to make this place succeed, it really was totally different than any other place I’d ever worked. Needless to say, the experience had an impact on me, hence my views on personal management styles.

Now I know, software companies are not the same thing as restaurants, but some of the lessons definitely transfer. There is a lot of research out there supporting my management philosophy, usually in regards to managing people who are telecommuting. I posted a link in thread that didn’t go anywhere a while back to a guy that I really think has some valuable things to say in this arena, but in case you missed it check out Why the Customer is Always Right is Wrong and click some of the archives, there is tons of good stuff there.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

I am in favor of creative management and motivation techniques, and also know the reality that the sort of model you suggest will not be effective in a production environent that provides product direct to the customer on a minute by minute and hour by hour basis. Microsoft and businesses who can employ telecommuting also have the luxury of seeking out and recruiting the eductated and skilled employees who will thrive in their environment; don’t think they don’t axe the ones who do excel in the environment they way management expects. A direct to consumer production environment is prfoundly different that a suit and tie, development business environment. Some concept will translate, while others will implode a restaurant staff. Microsoft doesn’t have to mobilize their workforce (after the entire group has been taking it easy for 40 minutes) to meet the demands of a large mobilization of force to deliver product to the customer in pristine condition in 30 minutes. Foodservice can be very easily defeated by the inertia of getting crew back to stations and on task.

For a limited example, my crew can work at above capacity for two hours continuously with limited mistakes on high output nights. You take that same production demand, spread it over 4 hours with 20 to 30 minute periods of down time . . . and we jsut cannot keep consistency nearly was well without lots of added effort.

Employees are at my workplace becasue I am paying them to perform the tasks that I and other leadersdirect them to do. If they are there because I pay them to be there . . . then they will find themselves somewhere else. If they are there because I pay them to work in and on my business to improve it and provide services to the customers, then they are the type of employee who will succeed with my business.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Is this the management style that you employ at your own store?

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

The thing is, Nick, that I’ve seen my model work and have made it work when I’ve been left in charge of a store, it just takes a different way of looking at things. I think you’re reading too much structure into my system, I’m not talking about scheduling goof off time or breaking up long shifts with “off” times, but more of laying out what I expect to get done on a shift and then NOT creating more work to fill the time if what needs to be done is completed early. What I’m against is the “oh, you guys got done early, here’s some mindless cleaning chores that don’t really need to be done but I don’t like to see people chatting on the clock” school of management. That just creates an incentive to do as little work as can be gotten away with on a given shift, as well as breeding resentment for not being appreciated.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have firm expectations for your workers, Nick, but that when they meet or exceed those expectations that the “reward” should not be a mindless task that they would not have had to do if they hadn’t done the expected work so quickly. I’m not trying to imply anything here, I don’t know how you run your store, I’m not Gregster :wink:. I’m trying to dig up some links I saw a while back to actual studies about how much having a “looking busy” policy actually decreases productivity, hopefully I’ll have some data soon to back up the touchy feely stuff.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

So Dox47, you have tried this management style and it seems to work for you “when you’ve been left in charge”. I’m not trying to sound condescending, but how the heck do you know it worked well? Because the workers got their “chores” done early and everyone had “play” time afterwards; lots of laughing and horseplay. Is that what you’re basing your assessment on? Sorry pal, but there’s a lot more factors involved with how success is measured.

Bottom line is you’re not responsible for a P&L; nor you probably weren’t really responsible for the results of those particular shifts you speak of. So you really don’t know how well you really did using this “laid back” management style.

IMO, you carry a lot of bias from a worker’s point of view; the type of worker that has the attitude of “if there’s nothing in it for me, then why do it.” That’s the type of worker that I try not to hire or keep around.

I do value my employees a lot. In fact, I’m grateful to every one of them and thank them every day for their hard work and contribution. Yes, I do reward them in many ways, including monetarily. My employees know what’s expected of them and they look to help each other out whenever they can. It’s the work culture we have.

Is my operation and staff perfect? Heck no. We have our normal personnel and management issues and challenges. But I can’t imagine letting an employee have “goof off” time just because he/she finished their sidework early. What would that do to the team morale if Johnnie the prep cook finished his duties early and while on the clock sat down in the dining room with a coke to watch TV while the others were finishing their sidework. Johnnie might think it’s cool but the others wouldn’t and that would damage the team as a whole. In my operation, Johnnie helps out the others. If not, he can punch out and spend his time doing whatever. But I’m certainly not going to let him continue earning a wage while he watches TV, talks on his cell phone, or do other personal activities. Not on my watch!

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

<<what follows may be completely meaningless to some and somewhat useful to others . . . it is just what works for me in my little piece of the world and makes my life make sense. It is by no means the one and only truth on the matter>>

In the world I work in every night when the ovens come on, there is too much to get done in the time allotted. There may come the odd hour in the week that drops off, but the crew I have and the workload we carry requires all the hours we have, plus my coming in off shift to get more done. If there is all this “extra time” where employees have done what was assigned in the shift, then there is a labor management issue, and a lack of initiative and vision on the part of the suervisory staff. If you frequently have to “make up busy work” to keep people busy, then you have overstaffed or are missing major pieces of operation that need attention.

The “let them loaf” model will remain stable in the short term. How short depends on the strength of will of the leaders. humans are creatures of habit and structure . . . as we are allowed to sit idle, we will grow to expect more idel time. We will magically complete tasks ahead of budgeted time by cutting corners and flat outcovering up inaction to “go out and play before actually doing all the homework” (simply by lying). If the staff is frequently completing tasks “early”, then you as a leader need to set more challenging goals and establish higher expectations. The other side of the issue is that effective leaders can and do motivate their people to accomplish more and more and meet higher expectations. The followers are then more than they were previously, as a group and as individuals . . . it gives meaning to the work.

See, I come from a different world than Dox47 does. I grew up in a working world from an early age that valued cooperation and helping the other guy bear his burden . . . because he is one of us. I have a couple Vince Lombardi quotes that come together as part of my leadership philosophy and what I value in fellow teammates:

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defences, or the problems of modern society.”

"Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

“Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another and of strength to be derived by unity.”

The guy who feels confortable every time sitting down while the other guys work . . . that’s the weakest link in the chain. That’s the guy who isn’t committed to group effort. Sure, we all deserve to enjoy fruits of individual effort and accomplishment. If a man walks into the group expecting that because he is done with the tasks assigned to him, and no one has asked him to do something else . . . that man has a low ceiling and is not contributing to the “group effort”. He will eventually become an anchor and a wedge dividing the group accomplishment.

If you are taking money from my business and are not committed to the success and growth of my business and the efficiency of the entire group . . . then you are not excelling as an idividual or adding to the group success. I am not a socialist, actually. It may seem that way, but I am very pragmatc and have expectations and value those who meet them. Your personnel will rise to the level of your expectations, regardless of how low they are.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Actually, my family has been in the retail business for years, my father owned a chain of record stores in 4 states and my mother owned several plant shops and a candy and toy store, which I started my own retail career in well before the legal age. I didn’t go to day care, I went to work, behind the counter during the day and helping out with the books and the inventory at night. The point being, I’m very familiar with the ins and outs of small businesses and how to run them, how to measure success, and yes, what goes into a P&L statement. However, I don’t need to consult the books to make a comparative judgment on how the shop ran when I was in charge versus when the owner was, at least as much if not more got done when I was running things and we didn’t get any complaints from the customers, quite the opposite in fact. On my days, people were happy to be working, the whole atmosphere in the store was different, and that kind of change is immediately and obviously apparent to the customer.

I do base my point of view from an employee’s perspective, IMHO a fresh voice was needed around here. As to what type of worker you don’t want, do you mean people that think things through? I’m sure you’re not in business for the fun of it, if there was no money in pizza you’d be doing something else, why should your employees be any different? “Do as I say not as I do” may suffice for desperate people that have no other place to go, but smart, capable people need more than that to motivate them.

Then your employees will soon learn to never finish anything early. I believe the technical term would be “operative conditioning”, like lab rats learning not touch something that shocks them, employees subjected to needless busywork will soon learn to avoid idleness at the cost of morale and efficiency.

Why? “Johnny” did a good job and he did it quickly and was rewarded for it, why wouldn’t everyone else try to hurry up and finish their tasks so they could join him for a refreshing Coke in the dining room? You don’t think that seeing “Johnny” being “rewarded” for his exemplary performance by being given more work than he would have had to do if he’d been a little slower damages your team’s performance in any way?

In reality, good coworkers do help each other out to knock out their checklists, but I don’t find that one really needs to mandate that sort of thing if you’ve got people that mesh well. In my experience, a pointed lack of teamwork with someone is usually a pretty good indicator that I should discreetly ask my regular staff what’s up with them, it’s the best way I’ve found for spotting people that just aren’t going to work out for some reason. Everyone has had a few, that guy that had good qualifications and interviewed well, might even otherwise perform OK but that everyone just seems to hate to work with?

Again, look at my quotes that Nick started this thread with, if the cost of the amount of productivity is the same, you have nothing to complain about. If you’ve got two guys, one works twice as fast as the other, if you pay them the same hourly the faster guy only has to be productive for half his shift to be worth the same amount to you as his slower counterpart. Unless you’re paying him twice as much, he’d have to be an idiot to do twice as much work as his coworker.

Or, look at it this way, how much does turnover cost you? Last I checked, it costs Domino’s $2,500 to train a new worker, and around $20,000 to train a new manager. Overwhelmingly, people don’t quit jobs because of money, they quit because they get tired of BS, and being given extra work because “you don’t pay them to stand around” is definitely BS. If your costs are anything like Domino’s, turn over just 2 less employees a year and that’s an extra 5 grand straight into your pocket, something I’m sure you’d like to see happen on your watch.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Dox you are making some good points, but you are comparing apples to oranges. This business is more of the manufacturing segment not retail or office segment.

I have a picture of the I love Lucy show were she’s working in the candy factory and all the chocolates are falling off the conveyor belt because she can’t pack them fast enough. Obviously her co-workers already packed their quota for the day and went to the break room to goof off for the rest of the afternoon.

The teamwork I strive for is everybody does the work together, so even if Jonny is faster, they all get done sooner.

but I do agree they need some goof off time—with boundaries and limitations that are set by management. When they are all standing around chatting together they form friendships that strenghthen the team.

I also don’t think that cleaning projects are optional—like you state----sometimes the employees pride in the place that they work, will outshine being able to sit around and doing nothing.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

I will throw this in here as a former Godfather’s Pizza manager.

Most nights were about getting everything done as quickly as possible and getting off the clock. However, I scheduled differently from what was mandated by the franchise owner (hey, I was in my 20s and did not care what they said). I always overstaffed according to them even though my numbers always came in right. Perhaps I was staffing appropriately after all. But my position was that I wanted to be ready for unexpected high volume and that “slack time” was not a bad thing.

By “slack time” I do not mean loafing. It is the time where you have more employees on the clock than needed. I used it for idle conversation and slower paced working. You aren’t exactly working and you are not exactly goofing off. It could be competitions on saucing or box folding, wiping down walls, or letting employees cross train each other. It was always just stuff that we could do without at that moment if I wanted to cut labor to the bone. But it built up the team mentality, skills, and work satisfaction.

We never had, “These are your tasks. Get them done and you can sit on your butt.” We worked together. It was fun.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

This I can get behind, Charles. Pretty much our operation in a nutshell. We also do product development in slacker times.

(Cross) training is productive use of resources and improving the business . . . and investing in the employees. All around win. Keeping the staff engaged to some degree, even if less intensive than the Friday 7pm bum rush, avoids inertia if a rush does come. This is the mind set of an effective leader from my philosophy.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Cross posted froma different thread:

Blink :: Blink.

I think I need a refresher on why this “free time” philosophy, and the kinds of outrageous liability risk created in the above scenario, benefits my customers & business, and why it is a good idea I should encourage, or even allow, to happen.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

I’m absolutely fine with socializing/chatting about non-work related stuff, as long as it doesn’t detract from the employees’ ability to work and/or adversely affect the customer. Unless the employee is a mono-tasker, he/she should be able to do this while working to some degree. The problems that I see with allowing for slack time are: 1) employees rush and do a half-azz job or bare minimum so they can say “I’m done” 2) You are forced to micro-manage to the point of “I need to check over every piece of your sidework to make sure you’re really done with it.” This is not a daycare.

Yes, you may get some employees (the type I spoke about previously) that like the freedom of having personal time and getting paid for it. Again, they’re the type of person that has the attitude of “if there’s nothing in it for me, then why do it.” Is that really the type of person you want working for you? See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSed9VbiABo&feature=related

I seek out eagles that are self-motivated and team-oriented, that don’t necessarily need to get compensated or commended for every thing they do. They just do it because of pride and know that’s what I expect. Yea, I’ve hired some people that I thought were eagles, but turned out to be buzzards. These people just don’t thrive in a place like mine. Dox47, I don’t expect you to believe this kind of work environment can actually exist. I’m guessing it probably happens more in indies where the owner is very involved with the operation, than with large chains.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Thank you Charles, this is more what I’m talking about than having a bunch of people just goofing on the clock, simply having a relaxed atmosphere when the chores have been done. It sounds you had a similar order pattern at Godfather’s to my Seattle area chicken joint, mad rushes followed by long periods of relative calm, with out any real predictability to them. You need to be staffed up for the rushes, but between them things can get a tad overstaffed. That’s when my “cool hand” theory of management would come into play, and it’s like you said, it’s not like we’re all standing around texting or something, but we may decide to pool our shift meals and trade with someone, or try to make something new to eat out of on hand stock that we’re not sick to death of yet (that’s how the philly cheese steak and the Bic Mac got invented, btw). We’d still be doing work stuff, but in a far more laid back fashion than during crunch time or when we were building up prep reserve or knocking out the cleaning list. Having a close knit staff that like each other is a valuable thing, and one easy way to help that along is what Charles is saying here, just back off a bit during down times and let people have fun with the work.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

Oh, I don’t think that cleaning project are optional, I just think that they are best handled by means of daily, weekly and monthly check lists rather than being dropped on whatever employee is unfortunate enough to get caught finishing their work. You should know that when I refer to “unnecessary cleaning” what I’m talking about is the make-work type of cleaning, the stuff that wouldn’t normally be part of normal maintenance (polish the prep tables, mop floors that are still in use, etc.) that managers of a certain type think up because they only think in term of time on the clock and not work actually accomplished.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

I actually intended that as an outrageous scenario to illustrate the futility of thinking that simply getting rid of the internet would inspire someone’s employees to suddenly start cleaning while he wasn’t in the store. I won’t lie, I got a lot of enjoyment over “putting one over” on the guy that owned that store, and doing it so well that he was always going on about our Sunday numbers and how good the store always looked on Monday, etc etc. This was the same guy that among other things I caught shaving time cards (that’s another thread…), so it shouldn’t seem too surprising that I would be more motivated by pulling the wool over his eyes than by wanting to do a good job for him, I’m good that way at coming up with unorthodox ways of motivating people including myself. What I described is hardly a typical situation, and admittedly not a desirable one for most people, I just wanted to make the point of just how much the mice might be playing while the cat’s away, and how even an obnoxious control freak store owner might not even be simply unaware, but happy with the results so long as he never knows the details.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

What did I miss? Your original post was in response to justifying Internet surfing while on the clock. Now you’re saying that if it’s work-related than it’s ok and that’s what you meant. If so, then excuse me and I would have to agree. But I don’t think that was your original thought. Surfing the internet, checking e-mail, texting friends is quite different than having box folding competitions, cross-training, testing new recipes, etc. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but your contradictions leave me to believe that your “cool hand” management style isn’t as cool as you originally stated.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

And what would happen if it were sanctioned and encouraged? I’m with 'fanatic that you have changed your posiotion from “owners should be happy if the assigned work is done, and should let people do what they want” to “have relaxed and potentially fun business oriented activities that keep the staff engaged, and possibly encourage gaining more skills”.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo


Sorry, I can see how I was less than clear and caused some confusion there. What Charles said that was so familiar to me was his labor pattern, how he’d end up with extra people on the clock because of an unpredictable rush pattern, and that rather than cracking the whip he’d try to find ways to make the work more enjoyable. Not precisely how I used to run things, but the underlying thought is similar, and the way Charles described it came off as sounding more palatable to the type of manager that I’m trying to reach with these posts. Also, several people have criticized my philosophy on the grounds that in a properly run shop there shouldn’t be any down time, and here was the perfect example of how downtime occurs in a perfectly legitimate manner.

All along the point I’ve been pushing is that employers/managers often get too caught up in trying to squeeze every last drop of “labor” out of their workers when they’re on the clock, when simply giving them a reason to work harder (then the work will be done!) will often create much greater productivity. I know that this is a hard sell to people who are very entrenched in the older way of looking at things, so I’m being flexible in how my philosophy is applied to a business environment. I know that my techniques work, but I understand why people would be skeptical of some guy on a message board’s management advice, so if people are more comfortable with a hybrid style like the one Charles describes, I’m all for it, since it moves people away from the older system. To wit, I acknowledge the seeming inconsistency of execution, but the underlying philosophy is perfectly consistent.

Re: “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand” - labo

To the first example (I know it was a simplified example) Consistantly sitting around, when done with assigned stuff, watching someone else complete their tasks . . . that’s not at all a leader or an exceller. No vision for more than 15 seconds into the future. If nothing else, he is not even bright enough to be self serving to help this guy in hopes of getting payback in return later. Once, okay, but a habit belies a narcicistic tendancy that is cancerous. Maybe there is a responsibility of the employee truly to put into the system to get back out of the system . . . the horror.

There is a more profound difference that I have seen in your arguments, and one that seems to be challenging to convey to employees of any level. “Productivity” is the amount of work I get done for my labor dollar. If a person dooes tyhe assingned tasks in 5 hours then do nothing for 3 hours on the clock . . . that’s lousy productivity . . . NOT good productivity. Productive means using my dollars to advance and further the business interests, generating work product of some sort. I glean from your posts that you see productivity as finishing work quickly to have ‘leisure’ of some sort, and some sort of rewarding situation. In the assertions you have made, and the words you have used several times, I gather the mindset that assigning new tasks to employees who are efficient in completing quickly is somehow poor management and to be derided as “busy work”.

Believe me when I say that there are SCANT few situations in a functional business where an employee whould be collecting my dollars and doing nothing . . . let alone surfing the internet on my POS computers!

We are not at all skepitcal of message board management advice, and the whole purpose of this forum is just that. Taking advice from others. Sometimes a couple of us will tie into a thread with someone who has what we perceive as fundamentally flawed message. We are owners, operators and mangers whose goals is to maximize the return on our business and time investments. We employ people to assist us in building our business and its profitability to us. As those employees prove themselves valuable to the above goals, they will gain some sort of compensation in the form or money, position, priviledge, praise, oublic accolades, clothing, activities, awards, perks, food, time off, leisure, and any myriad other creative things we talk about at length on this forum. To the extent that an employee works toward the goal of the end of the shift or completing only the taks directly assigned on any one shift or unit of time, they will find themselves likely working themselves out of a job at that business.

It is in our best interests to maximize the motivation and loyalty to the best and most productive of those employees. 80/20 works for employees as well as customers - spend 80% of your effort building the 20% of your labor force that really drive the business. You can identify the dead weight and the excellers . . . try to rehabilitate the dead weight and pump up the excellers. Dead weight can be replaced with nearly anyone in most cases, if they are just there to do a task and avoid working too hard. Try to recover the best of them into exellers, and suffer the rest until you get a better candidate who will improve the business and actual productivity. Excellent leaders will motivate a team and make the 80/20 less relevent because the entire team functions at a higher level, and will themselves weed out the dead weight for lack of patience. Leaders will set effective goals that the team will work feverishly to accomplish and exceed. These may be management, supervisors or just d@mned fine employees on the line. The d@mned fine employees of whatever title are worthy of my efforts and all the positive benefots of true productivity excellence. The dead weight will settle to the bottom and be called out by the excellers.

I have no need in my life or my business for the true dead weight. People who cannot or will not be motivated or give extra effortto meet goals and improve the business. They need to find the situation and people who they can excel for. No amount of cajolling, motivating, playing, or stroking will get them to achieve. Majority of people are somewhere in the middle at any given snapshot in time. Anyone who shows glimpses of excellence is a potential saver, and should be a development project. Anyone who steps up and shows glimpses of mediocrity needs to be encouraged to find a better place to be. They will drain the resources of the business and the motivation of the team.

No one in my staff is so skilled and talented that they can overcome failure to funtion as part of a team. The team, the group goal is the sole reason I spend all my time and money on the business. It is only through full functioning of the team that the business will thrive. Barry Bonds is a great baseball player, but story is that those around him to not rise up and be better because of being near him. Mark Grace, on the other hand was a good player who made all those around him better. I’ll take the talented leader over the prima dona superstar, let alone a prima dona lackluster goob. Not only is the leader most often self-motivated, but he also motivates others just because he/she is who they are. He adds to the system and is therefore MORE PRODUCTIVE than the guy who races to finish his work and sit for 3 hours.