August 15

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Rules and Reality

In graduate school, I worked as a bartender in an inner-city Ruby Tuesday. One day, a new rule came down that became the bane of my existence.

The Ruby Tuesday corporation made a rule about drinks that used orange juice. The rule was that the orange juice had to be freshly squeezed at the time the drink was ordered.

I'm imagining the decision was made in a board room somewhere. Probably by people who hadn't worked in a restaurant.

And in theory, it sounded like a nice idea. I mean, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Who doesn't want that?

But the reality was that an orange required time to squeeze. And, the bar didn't have a refrigerated space to keep oranges.

So, anytime someone ordered a drink that required an ounce of oranges juice, I had to:

1. Run to the kitchen and grab an orange.

2. Cut the orange in half.

3. Squeeze half of said orange into the drink.

4. Save the other half of the orange for later.

5. Clean all the supplies used to cut and squeeze the orange.

The result? Sure, the drink would have fresh-squeezed orange juice in it. But, there would be a time delay on not only that drink, but all of the drink orders that followed.

So in the end, the reality probably wasn't worth the novelty of a "fresh-squeezed orange juice" experience.

A similar phenomenon goes on at Moe's, the quasi-Mexican chain. Their policy is that every time someone walks in the door, all the employees shout, "Welcome to Moe's!!!"

But the reality is, an eight-hour shift of shouting "Welcome to Moe's" makes people tired.

Just try walking into a Moe's near closing time.

Hearing a team of five people squeak out "Welcome to Moe's..." in the style of a starving Oliver Twist has a way of making you want to turn the other direction.

There are rules that sound good. Especially when they come from way up the chain in a bureaucracy, far from the work itself.

But at some point, even bureaucracies need to check the reality of the rules they create.

And have an honest look at whether the reality matches what they had in mind.

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About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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