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To Grow and Reduce Costs Avoid Making Customers Wait in Unending Lines That Frustrate Them

Mar 17, 2008
Lines aren't just for assembly; they are also for people waiting to be served. As you well know, many processes require unnecessary waiting. Each person is directed to follow exactly behind a specific other person. You then move in a fixed sequence from one station to another. At some point, you are finally done.

It doesn't seem to matter to anyone running the operation that some stations are underutilized while other stations are swamped. Eventually, everyone moves at the pace of the slowest station in the process that's still ahead of him or her. Relief organizations and military groups are famous for adopting these approaches.

Leaders who view resources as scarce and worth using well take another approach. These leaders offer more immediate service by being flexible.

Golf course pros have long understood this principle. Traditionally, everyone has started on the first hole and proceeded around the course through all 18 holes in numerical order.

But if you start every golfer at the first hole in the morning, that means that the remaining 17 holes are unused until someone reaches each hole after starting at hole one, going on to hole two, then to three, and so forth. Since many people take four or five hours to play a round, that leaves too much empty space on busy weekend mornings. For instance, that approach means that the 18th hole is empty until the afternoon.

To overcome that undesirable slack, members are encouraged to come early on weekends for "shotgun" starts after the grounds crew has finished its morning chores. Foursomes of golfers are simultaneously sent to all 18 holes and directed to start at the same time.

Years ago, shotgun blasts were used to alert players on distant holes when to begin. Today, most courses rely instead on sirens or the members' watches.

Even this helpful idea can be improved. Groups tend to back up at par three holes. That often means an empty playing space on the next par five. Astute pros will start the fastest foursomes on the par threes and put one fast and one slow group to follow one another on each of the par fives. This arrangement will allow 22 foursomes on the course operating at about the same speed as 18 random foursomes.

Try to add more foursomes than 22 or have too many slow groups, and the round's length will soon stretch well beyond five hours with lots of griping from the players. Course utilization over the course of the day also drops.

Golf pros also figured out that they could further speed up play and add more fun by changing the rules. Rather than having every golfer play every shot, some contest formats call for a golfer stopping on a hole after a given number of shots (usually one over par, the number of strokes a good golfer would normally shoot on a hole, after adding on a player's handicap, the amount the golfer normally shoots over par) in points-based competitions.

In such contests you don't record your individual score, but, rather, earn points depending on how you do versus par, after adjusting for your handicap. A handicap-adjusted par might earn you two points, an adjusted bogey one point, and an adjusted birdie four points.

This approach keeps hackers and slashers (poorly performing golfers) from having to take 16 swipes at the ball on a given hole, while delaying everyone on the course. The golfers also like this change in the rules because it makes their scores seem better than they actually are with those occasional disaster holes taken out.

An even faster format is best ball where each player on the team proceeds from the best shot that any player made on the team's immediately preceding shots. The players on the team with less good shots pick up their balls and move on to take their next shots from the most advantaged position.

This format can be made still faster if you mix talented and untalented players onto the same team. The less talented players are usually playing from the best player's ball.

Wise organizations could follow the same principle: Only require a beneficiary, customer, or user to make a limited effort to use an automated way of doing things before a helpful person intervenes to simplify matters. Wouldn't that be great?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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