Be Ready For Service!

Mise en place redux

No More NETMA Badges

 She stood there with that “deer caught in the headlight” look on her face and said, “No one told me about the change…”

“Can’t have staff wandering around wearing NETMA badges” I remarked as I came thru the door.

“What’s a NETMA badge?” They chorused.

I replied, “There are these two really smart guys; Tom Peters  and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.  while working for McKinsey & Company, they wrote a book in the early 80’s titled, In Search of Excellence.”

The book was a big time New York Times best seller. In Search of Excellence became required reading at many companies. In the book, the authors wrote about companies all over the world aspiring towards achieving excellence in various forms, in a variety of industries.

In Search of Excellence is packed with examples of people doing the best possible. Well told stories about what was working to be the best possible in what ever industry they were in.

What was the secret to success at these companies? Not advances in technology. Remember this was before cell phones, email and the internet existed. The common denominator of success was the attitudes and contributions of the human assets at these companies.

People, make the real difference of choosing between mediocrity or quality and excellence. The pursuit of excellence is a lofty, admirable quality and character trait in any profession. 

“So, back in the day… a college friend told me about attending a cocktail party where Peters was the honored guest. With a cocktail in hand he listened as Peters held court and those gathering around asked for autographs and questions. One question asked was, ”Mr. Peters with all the projects as managers that we need to undertake, what needs be the top priority?

Peters paused for just a second and quickly replied, “No NETMA Badges.”

He continued with, “Make it a point to communicate often — so no one is walking in to your office wearing a NETMA badge. Talk informally over coffee, order pizza for lunch, post notes on a bulletin board — hang out near the water cooler, anytime and anywhere that you have a chance to keep the information flowing about what’s going on — policy changes, SOP’s,  victories, losses, stats, ideas for improvement, etc.”

Peter’s resumed with, “Your people need to know what’s going on, what’s expected; the changes. They need to feel a sense of belonging — that they are part of the evolution. In fact, your people will make the biggest and often best contributions if, they have involvement and feel like they are part of what’s going on, instead of as an outsider.”

Another from the crowd asked, “So what’s a NETMA badge?” There’s one of those long eerie pauses and a voice of some one who has been there and done that and says, “NETMA, is the acronym for Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything.”

Information hoarding needs to be outlawed. Lack of information sharing creates animosity, starts secret societies and this really makes staff mad, disappointment sets in, and ultimately the organization is set up for failures; sometimes small, sometime major.

What if the event leaders, planners; the information hoarders are sick, in an accident on the way to an event, what if they missed something? Yeah like forgetting to order table liens for a wedding, update the kitchen on menu adjustments or guest count increases, and schedule changes.

Pause for a moment and think back over the last few days or week about incidents at events where if, someone had information; more, better or clearer information —  what would have changed?

Here’s a few ways to reduce the NETMA badge wearing!

Managers and owners need to meet with the event captains-leads at least once every other month. Don’t be cheap. Pay them for their time. Buy or make them dinner, open a bottle of wine, pour some coffee and talk — you need to have an agenda, listen a lot and take notes.

Send email updates to the staff about the important details. Keep them brief and limit the email to one issue at a time. This builds an archive and a CYA (Cover Yo Ass) paper trail. Place a copyright and confidentiality notice in the email if you are sending along sensitive or property information. Any documents you want everyone to ready need to be saved and sent as PDF’s, because not every one has Word or Excel on their computer or cell or smart phone.

Print out the emails and provide copies to new staff as a way for them to catch up and be part of what happening.

Pass information on at the pre event or pre shift meeting. Reinforce communication and listen for feedback. Keep it short and brief so the focus is kept on the immediate event.

Create and post a company or department blog. If you are using word press and a few other blog programs, you can even limit who has access to the blog. Think of the blog as online newsletter. Posting pictures and video in the blog and email will certainly help out with information transfer. 

So you don’t like to write? Not feeling eloquent? No problem… Go for a Vlog (Video Blog). Get a digital handheld movie camera, shoot your message, post it online and away you go.

In Southern California it’s common to have FOH staff many up of several different ethic groups ( Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.)  that read write and speak english to various degrees. They often crave training — Pictures and Video they get. Still wondering about video? Check out the video link below by Chris Anderson on the power, influence and direction that video on the web is headed towards.

TED’s Chris Anderson says the rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation — a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print

Have an online meeting with staff via online programs such as,,,,,, & You can incorporate video, pictures, drawings, This is quickly becoming a killer communication platform. Be sure to archive the meeting so new hires can watch later.

Hang out and talk with the staff during breaks or meals. Work hard to create an information exchange, a sharing atmosphere and it will happen.

Listen to staff reactions and encourage them to speak up about changes. I have admitted on more than one occasion that some one actually improved upon a new idea or solution to a situation and made it better. “I reserve the right to change my mind and also tell you about it.” I have said a few times. Some times for what ever reason, you have hold a firm line.

There are a few more formal methods and strategies which I discuss in another blog on instructions, layout drawings, schedules, etc.

Remember: Information flow both ways — if you are feeding information and communicating with the staff — you will find they will give you information back as help to improve the process, because they feel they are participating and therefore keeping the NETMA badge wearing to a minimum!

Thanks for reading and hold on to your aprons,


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