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The coffee machine effect

How your team productivity is linked to your coffee machine.

Coffee makes the office go round. It became a necessity to start the day with a cup of coffee. One when starting to work, one in between, of course one after lunch, another one in between and if the day is extra tiring just one to finish everything up. Everyone who smokes notices the habit. You see other people doing it so it must be good - and schwupp di wupp you are in the circle of the coffee fueled people. The kitchens often becomes the central point of human interactions not only at parties and one of the reasons is the coffee machine there.

An old dating trick to get a sense of a stranger and his motives is to see him interact with other random people. For example, a waiter who takes the order or even messes it up is perfect for that. Is he nice to him or her or does he gets angry and bossy.

"Judge the person of how he treats the waiter."

You know what no one really cares about in the office?

The coffee machine.

It is probably the second most used machine in the company (besides the computer) and it can tell stories about the people handling it. As stated in the Artist of the 21st century our today's work is mostly done in teams. Everyone adds a part to the end result to create a sophisticated bigger picture. What is the effect if you don't do your work well? Someone else has to suffer and work longer to catch up the missing parts themselves.

But what has your work to do with the companies coffee machine?

Imagine you have one of this pad machines like Senseo. You put one of the pads into the machine, press START and off it starts to build up pressure and heat. When it is finished you just grab your mug and go your way.

What is the mistake here?

Right - you left a mess. The old pad is still in the machine, there are coffee stains everywhere, the water container is empty and the drop filter is full. The next one has to clean and set everything up before he can use the machine.

Why do you do it this way?

Because everyone is doing it this way. Imagine you have the same situation with your work. You worked on some files, finished, saved them and handed them over. But wait. All your tests are saved as well, you didn't comment on some of your changes and forgot to have a final look to make sure they didn't break the structure. It is messy and dirty.

I know what you think now:

Isn't it a little bit over exaggerated to imply one behavior will lead to another?

Admittedly it is a stretch but not as far as you would think of. The important point is that both situations involve people who are affected by your actions. Coffee making is maybe not your expertise and you wouldn't particularly put as much care as into your job - but maybe you should. Since every action that affects others reflects you but probably more the culture of the company. So even if the individual doesn't see such behavior creating a trend the employer should. For his own sake, the teams and of the success of his company.

The coffee machine will not forgive, it will not forget. It is always watching, ready to expose what lies behind smiles, handshakes and empty words. Listen to it and adjust.

- Alex

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