There is a phrase used in management and leadership training that says “what gets measured, gets done”. This acknowledges the fact that when we measure specific things we want accomplished, those who are doing those jobs will work diligently to reach the measurement that is desired. It may be a production output or a time limit, but when it is measured and performance is rated by those measures, the average person wants to meet those performance expectations.


One of the measures that many fast food restaurants use is the amount of time it takes to serve customers in the drive thru. A timer starts when the order is entered and is supposed to end when the order is served. This seems like a good idea and a way to measure the performance of the drive thru. The problem with this is that the personnel that are being measured are the ones that control the timer. So, in an effort to keep their performance levels where they need to be, they manipulate the timer by stopping it early or asking people to pull up and wait and then stopping the timer. This works great for those being reviewed but it fails in the desired goal. The desired goal is not to help the server reach the expected time. The desired goal is to serve the customer better. Instead, what happens is that customers become even more frustrated with the service while the fast food restaurant continues to boast about their fast service times. This seems to be a fail. I have been asked to pull up countless times while I waited as much as 15 minutes for food, but my guess is the timer showed I was served in a prompt manner. The most cars I have ever seen past the serving window was five. That’s right…5. Five unserved customers with a timer that told a different story.


Measuring for improved results is important for any organization. There should always be a desire to improve. But if we are going to measure something, we should take certain things into consideration.


What Is Your Desired Goal

In order to measure something properly you need to know your desired goal. The intent of the drive thru timer is to provide better, or at least faster, customer service. The problem is that it is not accomplishing that goal. Customers are not being served faster, they are only waiting in a different location. The customer is becoming more frustrated while the employee is learning that processes can be circumvented and what the timer says is more important than the customer. When you are clear on the goal, it will assist you in implementing a measure.


Implement Measures That Match Your Goal

On the surface, the timer seems like a wise idea. It could be a good idea, but it would need to be implemented in a different fashion. The timer and having cars pull up to wait have both been around long enough for fast food chains to recognize the flaws in the process. Instead, they continue to use the same strategy without getting the desired results. Your measure should bring about your desired result.


Identify Who Should Evaluate the Measure

If the goal of the timer is better or faster customer service, shouldn’t the customer have some input on the measure? If the one serving is the only one with control over the measure or evaluation then it seems natural that it would be skewed in their favor. It only makes sense that the server is going to find ways to make the measure look favorable to their work. In this case, moving a car forward and stopping the timer improves their performance but fails in the area of service. Shouldn’t the customer control the timer in some fashion? This may be a little more complicated to implement, but there is certainly plenty of technology available that would solve the problem. It shouldn’t be easy to manipulate the results.


Evaluate and Improve

I have yet to meet a customer that was pleased to pull up and wait. I would speculate it is close to 0% of customers who appreciate being moved forward to wait on an order. If what you are serving cannot be served within the desired time then either the item should be evaluated or the expectations should be evaluated. The only way to determine if the measure is accomplishing the goal is to evaluate it. If it is not accomplishing the goal, work to improve it. The first decision does not have to be the final decision. You are attempting to reach a goal not use a false measure.


Measuring and evaluating are great tools to improve results. Make sure your method is not making the situation worse instead of better. Don’t allow your measure to frustrate your goal as it seems a drive thru timer does. Good measures will get good outcomes.