A Line in the Sand; a Line in the Milk

Need a cool metaphor to wow your team into action? Listen-up to how Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz used metaphor to focus his organization and give them a rallying cry.

A recent
Business Week article highlights Schultz' story about Starbucks and spilled milk.

Schultz would not allow his baristas to re-steam milk (a quality-control thing). They had to pour leftov
er milk down the drain. (Not the best "green" message, Mr. Shultz!) So store managers came up with a simple and obvious idea: put etched lines in the steaming pitchers so the baristas would know exactly how much milk to use. Before, they just guessed. Simple, yet dramatic. No more spilled milk.

This metaphor is now mythic in the halls of Starbucks. Managers ask, "
Where else can we find lines"? And the good news is that they are actively seeking and finding other ways to save, just like they did with the milk lines. This type of simple metaphor can rally your troops and impact team productivity and your image as a leader.

Where Are Your Milk Lines?

Think about how you can create your own metaphors.

Especially in these challenging times, teams need something to rally around, and a simple phrase like Starbucks'
milk line might be just the thing to motivate your folks. There are probably many places to look for your own metaphors:
  • Where can a team save time?
  • Is there a process that can be streamlined?
  • Are there meetings that could take place virtually?
  • Is there a wasteful practice that could be re-channeled?
  • Any simple and easy ways to increase customer contact or intimacy?
  • New channels of communication... perhaps a Twitter suggestion box?
Attach a metaphor to any one of these ideas and you have a rallying cry and incentive. Maybe even banish the summer doldrums by offering a team challenge: which team can come up with the best metaphor and savings idea?

Prizes could range from the latest iPod to a day at a spa to...hmmmm...a $100 gift card to Starbucks?