Does your workflow include brown M&MS?

Blog Post created by weitkae Employee on Aug 17, 2017

The rock band Van Halen had an exacting standard concert contract that specified how everything was to be set up before their crew arrived with nine semis full of gear. For example, the contract included how many outlets needed to be on the stage, how much power to each, the stage weight capacity, and even how big the access doors needed to be.  It also included this rider way at the end:

Munchies: M & M's (warning: Absolutely no brown ones)


The offending brown M&Ms were not a dietary issue nor a case of rock star hubris, but were meant as a flag for the advance crew. When they came in a found a bowl of M&Ms without brown ones, they would do the usual setup. However, if there were brown M&Ms, they knew that the contractor hadn’t followed their contract and that everything in the setup was therefore suspect. 


In our world we’d say that Van Halen had a task-based workflow with an unusual quality and completeness flag.


Think about your own task-based workflows where one person sets up the conditions, and another person performs a task. Your biggest fear here is that the task person either puts in the minimum information required to start the process, or just checks all the required boxes without really doing the work.


In management the rule of thumb is that you get what you measure. If completeness is important to your process, then you need to find a way to measure it that goes beyond just the count of boxes checked and actually measures the quality of the job.


For example, a measure of quality and completeness among baristas is the intentional misalignment of the seam in the paper coffee cup and the drinking hole in the lid. Excellent baristas know that when they align you have a dribble cup. Poor baristas don’t.


Is there an equivalent to brown M&Ms that you can use to check to see that the conditions are truly set up and ready for the task?