How might we...
uncover efficiencies present in the system that are hidden when looking from only one perspective?

A global quick service restaurant (QSR) chain can function at scale with silos—but small errors in the chain can have ripple effects across countless parts of the business.

The client realized that the process by which recipes were being created, adapted, shared, and changed was massively inefficient. Different stakeholders across the corporation, from marketing concept to restaurant order, held the key to different parts of the recipes. They were storing much of this information in siloed systems. For each menu item, there were at least three versions of the recipe.

Individual efforts to improve data quality issues didn’t help—they were just a band-aid so long as the silos continued to exist. The client team wanted to get to the heart of the issue, and in the process, create a better system for menu item recipe creation, sharing, and synchronization and reduce waste. We needed to identify the existing pain points with the way things were currently being done and determine what would need to change to create a more efficient, connected process.

How We Did It

We brought together stakeholders from across the chain and its supply chain partners to apply innovation tools and methods to approach the challenge. As part of the workshop, we conducted 30 interviews, yielding 21 insights, 100 frames, and over 300 ideas. But one piece of information alone proved the utility of the interviews. 

As with any design thinking workshop, we broke participants into teams and connected them with stakeholders to get their points of view. Teams then returned and aligned on these insights, brainstorming potential themes and solutions and we prototyped, tested, and iterated on these solutions. The aim was to not just discover and articulate problems within the current state of menu items and recipes, but also to come up with some illustrative ideas for the future. We were focused less on identifying the precise thing that would fix the problems and more on what capabilities needed to be built — as well as the business requirements needed. One way we like to think about this is, it could be a pen, a pencil, or a magic marker but it needs to be able to write.

The results
Taking a collaborative step forward.

This was the first time everyone involved understood all the pieces of the puzzle. Mapping this complex system together unlocked awareness of cause and effect relationships in the system and allowed for a more streamlined approach to problem solving. The team co-designed their options, armed with better knowledge of the problems at play. And in their journey toward sustainable change, they could cut back dramatically on food waste.

As one participant reflected after the accelerator, “I used to think narrowly and only about the inputs that immediately touch my day-to-day, but now I see all of the complexity of the entire system that brings one recipe into existence.”

Collaborating across the silos uncovered the insight that something had been wrong in the system for years. Participants were driven to reconsider what other stones had remained unturned.

I used to think narrowly and only about the inputs that immediately touch my day-to-day, but now I see all of the complexity of the entire system that brings one recipe into existence.

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