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4 Quick Ways to Decrease Team Performance

4 Quick Ways to Decrease Team Performance

Anthony Mersino

June 27, 2019

7:41 AM

If you want to decrease the performance of your team simply increase team size, distribute the team, enforce specialization and use an online tool. These are quick and easy steps you can take to decrease team performance – these steps will also increase errors made by the team.

Team Performance at Starbucks

I was able to see this in practice today at a local Starbucks. I visit Starbucks at least twice a week and sometimes every single day. And I happen to visit different Starbucks as I move around to see different clients. I always get the same drink, a Grande Tea. How could anyone make a mistake on this drink?

The thing is, I always request that they hand me the tea bags separately so that I can steep them myself. I like my tea weak, and if they just put the two bags into the cup, it is already too strong by the time they hand it to me. Which is also why I don’t use the mobile order ahead of time and have my drink waiting for me. So I order in person and say, “bags on the side”. Or, “bags separate from the water, I’ll steep it myself”.

And mostly that request works. Because in most Starbucks, the person taking your order is the one to fill the cup of hot water and get the tea bags. That person will take my order and my payment, then they will turn around and grab the tea bags and fill a cup with hot water. Or, he/she will communicate my request verbally to a team member working directly behind them making the tea.

Except in one of the newly remodeled Starbucks in downtown Chicago. At this particular Starbucks, they have separated the various stations. This allows for specialization and perhaps is a way to get more throughput.

Here are the stations at this Starbucks:

#1 – Order Here

Starbucks mobile order station where team members specialize and decrease performance

At the Order Here station, you stroll up and the employee asks you what you want as they enter it into the computer. In my case, they do a lot of typing into the computer to communicate “bags on the side”. It seems that a lot of people must request “one bag in, one bag out” because they will often ask me if that is what I want.

“Nope, not for me, both bags on the side please.”

So far, so good.

#2 – Pay Here

Starbucks pay here step where team members specialize and decrease performance

About 20 feet to the left of the Order Here station is the Pay Here station. At the Pay Here station, as you might imagine, the employee asks for my name, finds my order on the computer, and then asks me for my payment.

I made my payment, and then shuffled another 20 feet to the left. Still OK so far…or, if there is a problem I am unaware of it and so are the employees involved in the transaction.

#3 – Mobile Order

Starbucks mobile order station where team members specialize and decrease performance

About 20 feet further to the left is the place where you pick up your orders. It is labeled “Mobile Order” but that is where I was directed to go for my in-store purchase because that is where my tea came out.

Unfortunately, instead of getting a Grande cup with hot water and two tea bags on the side, my tea came with two bags in the cup.


Even though the cup has a printed ticket with the instructions that were captured at the Order Here station.

WTF Just Happened?

So what happened? The Starbucks went from having one person taking and fulfilling my order (or at most two people, working closely together) to 3 separate stations with three different people required. They introduced specialization at each of the stations (order taking, payment taking, tea making). They instituted an online tool where they enter all the details for the order. And they physically separated the people doing the various work so there is no longer the opportunity for talking or being overheard.

Here is a quick recap of the steps Starbucks took to decrease team performance:

  1. Increase team size
  2. Have each team member specialize
  3. Used an online tool for communications
  4. Distribute the team physically

In this case, the team did not deliver the correct order on the first attempt. It was a small direct cost to them as they had to remake the order and there was a small delay and cost involved. Does that small cost outweigh the benefits they are getting with their specialization? Don’t know.

There was an additional less obvious cost to them of my loyalty to them when they don’t seem to be able to get things right on the first try.

I wonder how their changes affect the following:

  • Team spirit and cross-functional collaboration
  • Team member learning
  • Team member job satisfaction
  • Overall throughput
  • Overall cost
  • Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

The steps taken by this Starbucks at this particular location have impacted their ability to get my order right on the first try.

Food for thought:

  1. Which of the 4 steps have you taken in your SW development team?
  2. What impact do you think that these measures would have on the performance of your software development team?
  3. Is your software development team doing something more complicated and expensive than brewing tea?
  4. How does the setup of your team impact your customer loyalty and satisfaction?


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