How Beer And Change Management Go Together

About 18 months ago, a new restaurant/bar opened up in my neighborhood called “Angry Ham’s Garage”. (FYI- A “Ham” is someone that lives in Framingham, MA and that’s where this place is located.) Angry Hams had unique décor (garage related decorations) and a unique, vast menu (American, Italian and Asian) and surprisingly low prices considering the quality and quantity of the food. At first, the restaurant was very busy, but over time business got slower and slower.

About six months ago, Angry Ham’s was featured on a Spike TV show called “Bar Rescue”. Like many other shows of its kind, a bar business expert (Jon Taffer) came in to assess Angry Ham’s, made a number of recommendations and ultimately forced some changes at the restaurant. During the episode, the owner of Angry Ham’s shared that he had been losing money for the full 18 months- and that the financials were getting worse over time. He knew something had to change.

As a result of the show, Angry Ham’s did implement a number of changes. Here are some examples:

  • Changed their name to Octane Bar and Grill
  • Changed the exterior to look less like a garage and more like a restaurant
  • Significantly reduced the size of the menu while also increasing some of the prices on the menu
  • Upgraded the tables and interior décor
  • Provided the staff with training on mixing drinks, serving customers etcBeer and Change Management | Image Courtesy Of Nicholas Tarling

Out of curiosity, my husband and I recently went back to Angry Ham’s for dinner and found that the restaurant had only maintained about half of the changes. Most importantly, they changed their name back to Angry Ham’s Garage and the restaurant was dead at 6PM on Saturday night. (The food was still awesome.) This is a perfect example of how hard it is to make change stick.

Why did this happen? Perhaps it was KAB, instead of BAK.

  • KAB stands for knowledge, attitude and behavior, and is one change management approach.
  • BAK stands for behavior, attitude and knowledge, an alternative and more effective change management approach.

Let’s think about the process of losing weight. There are thousands of books and magazine articles, which describe in detail, the tips and techniques for losing weight.  If I want to lose weight, the information is readily available, in an effort to change my mindset and lead to some eventual action. However, If I start eating better and going to the gym, and can see and feel the pounds dropping off, my behavior and subsequent success will be much more powerful in changing my attitude and mindset and will likely provide a more impactful, real life learning process. Said another way, I will likely drive more sustainable behavior changes by going to the gym for 10 more weeks, then reading 10 more diet books

Bar expert, Jon Taffer used KAB with Angry Ham’s. He provided information (knowledge) on everything that was wrong with the restaurant, in an attempt to change the employees’ attitude and then influence their behavior.  It was clear in the television episode that the employees’ mindsets had not really changed and they had FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

However, the fact that half of the changes stuck, could be attributed to BAK. The employees’ changed their behavior and saw first hand that some of the changes made a difference. (e.g. Customers were ordering more drinks. Customers were ordering food with their drinks.) Because they changed their behavior and saw results, it changed their attitude and they learned from it. In addition, they were more likely to continue that behavior.

Why did this happen? Perhaps it was lack of employee involvement; lack of buy in from the top; lack of reinforcement.

This was a great example of a top down, change management approach. Jon Taffer, the appointed change agent, did not seek to understand why the bar did things the way that they did and he did not engage the employees in the improvement process. It was all about telling, not engaging. It was clear from the bar owner’s behavior that he did not fully buy in to all of the changes and (likely) did not support and reinforce the changes.

Change management is one of the most difficult processes to lead and sustain. Next time this task is on your plate, consider how KAB and BAK fit together and how you can get more BAK into the mix. Be sure to engage not tell….perhaps over a few beers at Angry Ham’s.

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About Marci Reynolds