September 28, 2010

Transparancy at Pret a Manger

Prets Passion Boards

A while back I talked about using icons to teach what you stand for. How about just saying it out loud to everyone who’ll listen?

Say it Loud, Say it Proud

That’s what sandwich makers Pret a Manger do. In the very small seating area of their Piccadilly store where I took this picture the other day, every wall had at least one board like these, each telling the story of Pret’s passion for food. You probably can’t read the words under the pictures so here’s the text from the top left board:

Pot Pourri — Made from delicate muslin material, our tea bags are fashioned into little purse-like pyramids, filled with organic whole leaves, hand picked in the Tea Gardens of Sri Lanka.

Ask a Pret team member to show you one — we think the Calming Camomile is particularly beautiful. A lucky coincidence really — what they’re designed to do (and do extremely well) is make a cracking cup of tea.

And it’s labelled Passion Fact No.72. The other two boards in the picture are about in-store baking and looking after basil leaves. I saw more, and I know they’ve been at it for years.

The message? Pret stands for quality, freshness, and care.

Commitment + Transparency = Accountability

Here’s the question … are all those little pictures aimed at the consumer, the staff or the management?

Visible commitments like these play well with customers who like to know what they’re getting, but transparency is even more powerful for the staff and management. With such a public commitment to quality, can anyone inside the company — whether a sandwich maker, food buyer or senior executive — be in any doubt about what’s expected of them every day? About choosing quality over price? About decisions over storage, or packaging, or recruitment or any other operational detail?

This isn’t about top down management. It’s about accountability.

Public declarations make everyone responsible, not only for living up to the commitment itself but to call out inappropriate behaviours too. Seeing this on the wall, what team member wouldn’t argue against reducing quality to save a penny a tea bag?

We don’t all deal in freshness or food, but we can all make our intentions clear, and ask everyone around to help us live up to them.

What boards would you hang on the wall? What else can you do to make your commitments transparent and to hold each other accountable for living up to them?

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