If you don’t eat there – it’s likely you’ve seen the Panera Bread name. Ron Shaich is the founder, chairman and co-CEO. He’s running an immensely popular chain of bakery-cafes. It’s a growing business and trend-setter in “quick casual” dining. I think he’s a fascinating manager-leader with lessons to share.
People: The Weighted Factor
While his first and early interest was profit — his primary one, now, is people. He believes how they are organized and work together mean everything to organization performance. This guy tells applicants in interviews they have a shared objective: value. How can the individual and the employer provide mutual value to each other? He considers the interview an important chance to relax traditional exchanges and identify the intersection of an individual’s skills with their potential to make a contribution.
Key to the Panera Bread culture is a rule: no jerks. Shaich says that his “no jerk” rule started out as a more precise anatomical reference but has been sanitized. As important, he focuses his team on tangled, tough work with optimism and mastery. He welcomes complex challenges because tackling them yields a competitive advantage. He reasons: if the work is simple, then any other organization can do it well, too.
Delivery & Discovery Muscles
In a recent New York Times interview, Shaich offers insights on an effective organization. He says how work gets done is the “delivery muscle.’” Shaich calls improvement and innovation efforts the “discovery muscle.” While the delivery muscle is feels safe, analytic and rational, he believes it frequently overwhelms strategies and related decisions. He thinks this muscle can encourage disconnected roles and functions internally.
He believes companies and other organizations often err because the discovery muscle is under-developed . The discovery muscle sees new patterns and approaches. It represents getting ahead of current thinking and leaps of faith that trust instinct and pursue risk. The discovery muscle forces focus on the whole organization and responsive action with a forward view.
Learning Requires Inquiry
Shaich considers his style a combination of both directed and adaptive. He is consistently reflective. In his own words: “I am constantly asking about everything – what works and what doesn’t.” The Panera recipe is successful. In short, it looks like this: great talent, mastery, lots of questions, and balanced muscles.
This leader is a learner who discovers and delivers.
-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com