The other day at Starbucks, the shift leader was explaining her methodology to a barista trainee.  She described how she set up the espresso bar exactly so – with flavorings in precisely the same place on the left, chocolate sprinkles on top of the machine, just to the right, and various spoons and jugs all in their place on the right counter.

Her goal was to be able to prepare the next mocha or latte quickly and efficiently, without having to think about where to reach for her tools.  She told the trainee she reached for each implement with “muscle memory”, saving time and wasting little effort.  The shift lead was taking time to coach the junior barista so that he could serve Starbucks customers with the same speed and precision.

Muscle memory, or motor learning, involves committing a specific action to memory through continuous repetition.  Over time, the task can be performed without conscious effort.  We experience this phenomenon every day when we drive, text (not at the same time…), or play the piano.

So, how does this relate to your Service Desk?

Waffle House restaurants are a part of Americana.

They are featured in movies, such as Tin Cup with Kevin Costner. (“I’m a Waffle House guy. Got to stay in touch with that.)  Rosie O’Donnell recognized them on TV and received a “Waffles for Life” certificate.  They are the favorite haunt of late night truckers and teenage pajama parties.   Their black and yellow signs stand tall at interstate highway exits throughout the southeast and midwest.

When you visit one on a busy morning, you are greeted by a cacophony of sounds and smells that can only be described as chaotic.  Waitresses bark patron orders across the kitchen to no one in particular.  Cooks throw eggs and hash browns on the grill in rapid fire.  Plates are quickly filled and servers hustle them off to the counter or a formica table.  If you watch this scene for a few minutes, it’s a wonder that anyone gets what they ordered.

Yet, everyone (or nearly everyone) gets what they ordered. And relatively quickly.  The quality and presentation are remarkably consistent across more than 1500 locations.

How do they do it?