Wednesday, 01 June 2011 09:13

Five Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary

Written by Steve Blash

Ptimes_June1_Feature_croppedI just finished reading another book by Joseph A. Michelli entitled: The Starbucks Experience:  5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary [1] that contains a robust blend of home- ingenuity and people-driven philosophies that made Starbucks one of the world’s most admired companies. The Starbuck’s experience can be found at two levels of the company. Its corporate culture encourages its leaders to create a unique culture for employees in which empowerment, entrepreneurship, quality and service defines the value of the firm. Employees, on the other level create a unique and personal experience for its customers which act as a blueprint to turn an ordinary experience of buying coffee into an extraordinary experience. Since I am a true believer of the Starbucks experience I was wondering how these five principles could apply to project management.

The five principles are:

  • Make It Your Own
  • Everything Matters
  • Surprise and Delight
  • Embrace Resistance
  • Leave Your Mark. 

Make It Your Own - With enough coffee, anything is possible. 

Project managers want the project team members to fully engage in their project work rather than simply going through the motions. Often team members don’t see how their efforts contribute to the success of the project and how the project can benefit the goals of the organization.  But project managers can provide a structure that allows team members to immerse themselves into their work so that they can inspire stakeholders and end users in extraordinary ways. Starbucks call this the “Five Ways of Being”:

  • Be welcoming; be cordial when you meet and greet other people and know their names
  • Be genuine; connect, discover and respond when interacting with others because you care
  • Be considerate; consider the needs of other above your needs
  • Be knowledgeable; add value to your effort by gaining as much work-related knowledge as required by attending training sessions, research background on the project’s subject matter, searching internet for information, etc.
  • Be Involved; active participation in all aspects of the project and not just your tasks, thus going beyond expectations.

Everything Matters - This coffee tastes like mud!  Well, it was ground this morning.  Old Vaudeville joke

The details matter. Missed details matter to stakeholders and end-users and can mean the difference between success and failure. What seems trivial to you may be very important to someone else. Ask the right questions looking for small stuff that needs your attention. Don’t make assumptions, especially if you know something about the subject matter. You may be overlooking something.

Surprise and Delight - A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.

Team members by nature are more comfortable with routine procedures and so are the stakeholders of your project. You should ask yourself, “What do my stakeholders expect from me and this project and what can we do to go beyond their expectations? Well a simple thing could be to bring donuts, bagels and Starbuck’s coffee to your next meeting or place documents in three ring binders with index tabs. But the best surprises are when your project finds better ways to improve your business and/or reduce costs in the organization.

Embrace Resistance - If this is coffee, then please-bring me some tea. But if this is tea, please bring me some coffee. Abraham Lincoln

Embracing resistance involves a set of complex skills that can enable a project to create relationship opportunities when confronted by skepticism, irritation or complaints. In projects inevitably something will go wrong and the project manager and team members must be willing to actively listen to criticism and address the complaints head on. When presented by a criticism or complaint, the project manager is given an opportunity to actually strengthen the relationship with stakeholders by thanking them for informing him/her of the problem so the situation can be handled immediately. Also the team members must be concerned about feedback, either positive or negative so they can also address issues that arise.

Leave Your Mark - Only one thing is certain about coffee. Wherever it is grown, sold, brewed, and consumed, there will be lively controversy, strong opinions, and good conversation. Mark Pendergrast

While achieving project success by improving the profits of the business or finding ways to lower costs are important, Starbucks believes an important part of business success is linked to the powerful impact that they have on their communities. Social involvement is integral to the Starbucks leadership mission by giving back to their communities and the environment.

Businesses are led by managers who understand the importance of investing in their people and their communities.

  • People prefer to do business with and work for socially conscious companies
  • The most talented and qualified applicants are increasingly considering a company’s ethics and community support as part of their decision regarding a position
  • Employee morale is three times higher in organizations that are actively involved in the community
  • When employees’ work environments match their personal values, they are more productive
  • Organizations that focus on environmental impact typically are valued more that those that don’t.

It doesn’t take much effort to find social programs your project team members can get involved with such events as walkathons, 5K runs, and various charitable events. This also helps to bond the project team members in a project.

For anyone who wants to learn from the best of the best, The Starbucks Experience, you will find this book a heady brew of unforgettable ideas. Take time to smell the coffee.

Don't forget to leave your comments below.


Steve Blash, PMP  is an experienced IT professional project manager consultant providing leadership, mentoring, and training in Project Management. His areas of experience include business process improvement, business analysis, business intelligence, data analytics, project and IT management.

[1] The Starbucks Experience 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, Author: Joseph A. Michelli, McGraw-Hill Press, 2007, ISBN:978-0-07-147784-0

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