Course Content
Sarah’s Retail Inventory Management
Sarah owns a small retail business that sells handmade jewelry. She's been experiencing inventory management challenges, such as stockouts of popular items and overstocking of slow-moving products. Sarah realizes that she needs a more strategic approach to managing her inventory to improve sales and optimize cash flow. She adopts a systems approach.
Susans’ Restaurant Workflow
Susan's journey towards optimizing her restaurant's operations using systems thinking principles exemplifies the power of proactive problem-solving, continuous improvement, and strategic innovation. By identifying inefficiencies, leveraging feedback loops, analyzing leverage points, implementing systemic solutions, and monitoring performance, Susan transforms her restaurant into a thriving and sustainable business.
Use Cases: Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Small Business Management
About Lesson

With a clear understanding of the problems identified in the restaurant’s workflow, Susan proceeds to map out the various components and interactions within the system. By visualizing the workflow, Susan gains insights into the relationships and dependencies between different elements, enabling her to identify opportunities for improvement and optimization. Here’s how Susan approaches this step:

1. Identifying Key Components

   – Susan begins by identifying the key components of her restaurant’s workflow, including front-of-house operations (such as seating, greeting customers, taking orders) and back-of-house operations (such as food preparation, cooking, plating).

2. Defining Processes and Activities

   – Susan breaks down each component into specific processes and activities involved in the workflow. For example, she outlines the steps involved in taking and processing customer orders, preparing and cooking food items, and delivering orders to customers’ tables.

3. Visual Representation

   – Susan creates a visual map or diagram of the restaurant’s workflow, using symbols, arrows, and labels to represent different components, processes, and interactions. This could take the form of a flowchart, a process map, or a schematic diagram, depending on the complexity of the workflow and Susan’s preferences.

4. Mapping Interactions and Dependencies

   – Susan maps out the interactions and dependencies between different components and processes within the workflow. For example, she identifies how customer orders flow from the dining area to the kitchen, how food preparation and cooking times impact order fulfillment, and how orders are delivered to customers’ tables.

5. Identifying Decision Points

   – Susan identifies decision points within the workflow where choices must be made or actions taken. This includes decisions related to menu offerings, order prioritization, staffing levels, and resource allocation.

6. Considering External Factors

   – Susan considers external factors that may impact the restaurant’s workflow, such as customer demand patterns, seasonal variations, menu changes, staffing availability, and kitchen equipment capabilities. She recognizes that the restaurant operates within a broader ecosystem and must adapt to external influences to remain competitive.

7. Feedback Loops

   – Susan identifies feedback loops within the restaurant’s workflow, indicating how changes in one part of the system can affect other parts over time. For example, she recognizes how customer feedback on food quality or service speed can impact future menu offerings or staffing decisions.

8. Hierarchical Structure

   – Susan considers the hierarchical structure of the restaurant’s workflow, recognizing that it consists of subsystems nested within larger systems. For example, the front-of-house and back-of-house operations are interconnected subsystems within the broader restaurant system, each with its own processes and interactions.

9. Visualization Tools

   – Susan may use specialized software tools or applications to create her system map, or she may opt for simpler visualization techniques such as whiteboards, sticky notes, or pen and paper. The goal is to create a visual representation that is clear, intuitive, and easy to understand for herself and her team.

By mapping out the restaurant’s workflow in this way, Susan gains valuable insights into its structure, dynamics, and interdependencies. This visual representation serves as a useful reference tool for diagnosing problems, identifying improvement opportunities, and communicating with stakeholders across the restaurant.

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