Systemic failure creates significant down time (or how to ruin a perfectly lovely morning)

I have just tried to renew my prescription online.  This should take roughly one minute – find the website, click on a couple of screens, tick two boxes and I’m done.  Not this morning. has changed its website (apparently because of GDPR – really?).  So I had to re-enter my registration code and password.  Now I remembered my password, but not that one of the letters had to be in capitals, so when it was not accepted I tried to change my password.  This meant entering a lot of personal details and then awaiting an email to inform me of my new password.  Or so I thought…

When I clicked on the link in the email, it took me to a page that informed me that a verification code had been sent to me, which would allow me to then change the password.  No such code had been sent – either in the email I had received or separately.  So I phoned the surgery….

When I eventually got through (“we are sorry that all our lines are busy at the moment”) I was told that I would have to re-register on the system and that I could only do this by taking I.D. to the surgery itself.  So I locked the house, got the car out of the garage and drove the three miles to the surgery.  The Receptionist checked my I.D., made me wait whilst she answered the phone, and gave me two A4 sheets explaining how I could re-register.  When I enquired if I was the only one to experience this problem, I was informed that everyone who requested prescriptions online would have to do what I had just done….

I drove home and followed the seven steps needed to re-register.  I was then able to order my prescription.  Time taken to do this 1 hour 5 minutes.  Stress levels heightened.  Must remember to take my anti-depressant….

Posted in Chap 09 Quality, Chap 10 Processes and technology, Sector: Public Services & Charities | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The only trend in design is be different to the last design

My headline is somewhat cynical.  It arise from looking at an interesting article about a new hotel – Sister City – planned for New York next year.  It is a “minimalist micro-hotel concept” apparently.  Or in common parlance an upmarket budget hotel…..

Posted in Chap 04 Location and design, Sector: Hospitality & Tourism | Tagged | Leave a comment

21 jobs of the future

Take with a pinch of salt anyone who tells you that they know what will happen over the next ten years.  Having said that, here is one Dutch company’s forecast about new jobs that will be created as a result of AI and automation.  There’s a free downloadable report, but also a 4 minute video.  The ‘new’ jobs include ‘virtual store sherpa’, ‘data detective’, ‘walker/talker’, and ‘fitness commitment trainer’ – you get the idea.

Posted in Chap 11 Jobs and people | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Today’s complex world is turning teamwork into “extreme teaming”

Interesting interview in the MITSloan Management Review with Prof. Amy Edmondson, co-author of a new book entitled “Extreme Teaming: Lessons in Complex, Cross-Sector Leadership” (published by Emerald).  In it she argues that increasingly innovation requires specialists from across different fields of expertise, often from different organisations, to work together on complex problems.  In addition, these project teams may be located on different continents and working in different time zones.  All of these factors stretch the norms of teamwork to their limit and beyond – hence the term “extreme teaming”.  In the interview she goes on to explain the skills needed to ensure successful innovation project outcomes.

Posted in Chap 13 Projects and crises | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cost and speed no longer a trade off in online retailing

In our book and on this blog we bang on about order winners (OWs).  Just to remind you an OW is a “characteristic which directly contributes to winning business from customers”.  And we go on to say OWs “are unlikely to remain the same over time in any particular industry sector as customers’ requirements change, competition increases, and technologies improve”.  My recent blog about McDonalds UK introducing table service was a very good example of this.

Hence it is insightful to see in the latest MITSloan Management Review an article by Acimovic et al. that explains in some detail how OWs are evolving in the online retail sector.  In the article they identify that the original online business model of Amazon and other such retailers was to compete on cost but not speed.  Cost was minimised by having a few large-scale warehouses.

But today, customers expect same day delivery and as a result are redesigning their distribution networks in order to achieve this.  The issue is whether they can do so without significantly increasing cost.  Acimovic et al. argue that they are able to do so because “Real-time sales and inventory information, coupled with advanced analytics (such as recently developed network-wide fulfillment algorithms), enable networks to accommodate fluctuations and changes in the business environment quickly”.

The article goes on to identify a three step model that enables the retailers to introduce agility, and hence speed, into their distribution systems without driving up costs.


Posted in Chap 02 Winning Customers, Sector: I.T. & ecommerce | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

3D printing of rocket ships

Insight into how 3D printing is evolving towards mass manufacturing.


Posted in Chap 10 Processes and technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Waiter! I’d like my Big Mac medium rare please

I ended my last blog by mentioning that McDonalds UK was offering table service from February this year and right now is running an advertising campaign about it.  I cannot let this pass with just a mention, it deserves a blog all to itself…..

This is what their website has to say about it: “Hands full? Feet Tired? Why not have your meal delivered to your table? Simply order it via the front counter, an ordering screen or the McDonald’s app and select Table Service. Then choose your table (and let us know you’re here if you ordered via the app) and enjoy the moment.”

Apparently this was trialled in 14 stores, and was so successful it is being rolled out across the chain to coincide with store refurbishments.  Right now about 300 stores offer this service.  Not so much a happy meal, as an appy meal.

Posted in Chap 03 Processes and life cycles, Sector: Hospitality & Tourism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

When the low cost strategy leaves you nowhere to go – except down

We’ve blogged about budget airlines, hotels and restaurant chains, but not about retail chains.  Right now in the U.K. such low cost retailers are really struggling.  Poundworld has gone into administration, and 99p, Poundstretcher and Poundland are struggling.  This item from BBC Business News suggests four main reasons for this:

  • fall in the value of the pound (nearly all products sold in these chains is imported from China).
  • too much competition (Poundworld closing will help the remaining chains).
  • changing retail environment (the article mentions Amazon, but at this price point online sites selling secondhand items are likely to be more significant).
  • constrained by £1 price point (when costs rise and sales volume falls, margins are squeezed even thinner than they already are).

It is this last point that I would emphasise.  These chains have almost only one order winner – the low price.  This means customers are unlikely to have any brand loyalty, so as these chains have grown their market has been spread more thinly across the stores.  It is a very short term strategy – as we have seen in the other industry sectors.  Even McDonalds is now offering table service!

Posted in Chap 14 Operations strategy, Sector: Retail | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Differentiating between “regular” and “premium” customers

There are many operations in which there are different classes of customer – such as hotels, hairdressers, and airlines.  This is based usually on how much the customer pays for different levels of service.  In many cases it is not a major problem, except for those operators who have adopted a low cost business model.  This is particularly true of low cost airlines.

Originally the low cost carrier (LLC) business model based price solely on the level of demand for a seat on any given flight.  Although passengers would be paying different prices for their seats, they all got the same level of service.  But the success of the  LLCs has lead them to realise that there were opportunities to generate more revenue by offering “premium” services to those customers willing to pay more.  In particular they have enabled passengers to reserve specific seats on planes or to have so-called priority boarding.

But this can lead to dissatisfaction – not just amongst regular customers but also the premium ones too.  For instance, with regards priority boarding there are instances where paying the premium price has not lead to premium service.  This can occur when a very high proportion of the passengers on a flight have paid for this, so there is little or no perceived advantage in doing so.  Or it can occur when there is a bus service between the terminal and the plane – premium passengers are allowed onto the bus first, but this does not mean they get on the plane first.

Seat reservations can also cause problems for LCCs, as the recent decision by Ryanair illustrates.  It has just cut the online check in window for passengers without reserved seats from four days to two days.  It has done because although passengers with reserved seats could check in for up to 60 days before their flight, many only do so at the last minute.  They were finding that they could not reserve the seats they wanted because these had already been taken by other passengers.  So now regular customers will have a reduced opportunity to check in online.  We wait to see what they think about this…


Posted in Chap 08 Queuing and customers, Sector: Transportation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

You’ve heard of Ola, Jump, Ofo, Mobike and oBike – of course….

This is an interesting example of how new technology enables the business model to be modified and as a result be very much more profitable.  All of the above are operators of dockless hire bikes, in countries all around the world.  It is this type app driven operation that has lead to 18 million bikes being available in 1,608 cities.  The customer uses their smart phone to find a bike, unlock it and then pay for it.  This means they can use it for as long as they want and leave it wherever they want.  The electronics on the bike that lock and unlock it are powered by a dynamo which generates power when being ridden.

Bike hire that depended on the bikes being docked in a docking station cost more than $3,000 per bike.  The new dockless approach has reduced the cost to around $100 per bike.  It is not without problems.  Bikes may often be left in places where there is no demand for them, but operators are using AI to address this issue.


Posted in Chap 14 Operations strategy, Sector: Transportation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment