Cafe-style Management

Coffee cup


I guess like me you have a favorite coffee bar, and it was in my favorite coffee bar when I was whiling away a few minutes and observing the people around me that I realised that management and leadership is very similar to a cafe.

I saw that the people serving were faced with ever varying situations to which they had to react – sometimes a long queue sometimes a short queue for their attention; sometimes a simple drink sometimes a complex drink to prepare; sometimes ordering for themselves as individuals and sometimes ordering on behalf of a group; sometimes customers being easily pleased and sometimes facing a challenging situation requiring significant attention to customers very specific requirements; and all of this supported by technology (till and coffee machine) with its variable foibles.

Surely all of this is exactly what happens in organisations. The role of a leader and manager is rarely simple and rarely routine – if it could be more routine it would make life so much simpler, but on the other hand if it was that routine why would you need a leader or manager in the first place?

So why does this matter?

I think the first and most important point is to do with the mindset of a leader and manager. If a leader or manager believes that everything should be planned and routine and operate exactly as it should, and they arrange their thinking and activities on this basis, then there’s a high likelihood that they will become stressed, overworked, or at least dissatisfied with constant flux of challenges and requirements. On the other hand, if a leader or manager believes that everything can be expected to be fluid and changeable, and they organise their activities and thinking to be flexible and responsive, then they stand a much better chance of handling whatever arises.

Working in this flexible and responsive way leaders and managers can then position themselves to anticipate a range of aspects of their work and the potential influences on it. There are many theories, models and concepts highlighting potential influences on organisations and their activities. A favourite of mine is STEEPLE, which grows from the historic idea of PEST, STEP, PESTLE analysis. Indeed, the idea can be taken even further with the so-called SPECTACLES analysis.

  • Social – who are the people we are dealing with at the moment? What are they likely to need? What are the expectations of our staff and their needs?
  • Political – what’s happening externally in the political arena which might have an impact on activities? What is happening in regard to internal politics that might affect what we are doing?
  • Economic – where do we stand in the current economic turmoil? How are we handling our pricing policy? How are we managing our budget, expenditure and cash flow?
  • Cultural – what is the cultural mix of our staff, customers and suppliers? How effective are we managing diversity, equality and fairness? To what extent do we provide facilities for those with particular needs, or specific religious requirements?
  • Technological – What are we using at present? How well does this meet our needs? What issuers with technology do we need to be addressing? What developments are coming in technology that might affect us?
  • Aesthetic – How do our products or services appeal to those who use them? How appealing are they? How attractive are our plans and our current business propositions to new and existing customers, clients and providers?
  • Customers – Who are our current customers (external and internal)? What do they want and need from us? What do we currently provide for them? To what extent does what we provide exceed, meet or fail to address what they want and need? To what extent do we need to attract new customers and clients? What sort of people or businesses are they?
  • Legal – what are the rules and regulations that apply to our activities (internal policies and external legislation)? To what extent are they stable or changing? Do we fully comply or are there some areas where we should pay greater attention? What new areas for rules regulations or policies should we be considering?
  • Environmental – How “green” are our current activities? How can we reduce waste and be more environmentally aware in our activities?
  • Sectoral – What are the latest developments in our subject specialist area? To what extent should we be modifying our activities to adopt the new developments? Which areas could we innovate in our sector to give us increased market advantage, enhanced environmental activities, greater customer focus, or compliance with legal requirements?

So, an open-minded flexible and responsive leader or manager will put on their SPECTACLES.

People and flexibility

One of the other things I noticed in my favourite café, is the way in which customers feel free to move the tables and chairs to meet their requirements, as they sit individually or in different group sizes, or to sit closer or futher away from the heater. This is also true in business – customers and clients, whether they are internal customers or external customers, will often ‘move the goalposts’ so that what has been provided in the past is not necessarily how they want things configured now, and again likely to be different in the future.

We should also remember that a café is a People business with customers and staff. If the people are not treated well, then not only would there not be any customers, the staff would soon become dissatisfied and probably move on too. True also for leaders and managers? Of course it is: all organisations rely on their people, so the staff and the customers – whether they are internal or external, need to be treated well, and as problems soon arise.

A people focus, with flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness is the key to modern business success, just as it is for being a first-rate Barista serving the many and varied needs of a whole range of customers, but who mostly have one thing in common – the expectation of significant speedy service. This is the final point here, modern life with all the communication aids and technological support creates a context where everything is immediate. Increasingly people now expect a very quick response to a communication, or fast turnaround from enquiry to contract to service or product provision. Dinosaur organisations or departments beware – survival of the fittest is these days more like survival of the quickest!

…. and yes, before you ask, my favorite café is reliable, flexible, fast and activity seeks to learn the range of my needs, so they can be ready to serve me when I’m next in the queue, which itself is never very long due to their efficient processes.

When you are next thinking about how best to lead or manage your team, department or organisation, perhaps you can learn important lessons from observing the good (and weaker) practice in your favorite café.  We all know what we like, so clean your SPECTACLES frequently to make sure you can see clearly where you currently are, where you are going, and what lies ahead that might catch you out.  If while you are reading this you are wondering how to develop your skills for the future, do get in touch – perhaps we can meet for coffee?

Notes to editors:

ATi provide bespoke developmental and qualification programmes through both face-to-face and supported blended learning, including topics of organisational change, talent and performance management and resource planning for future impact.

This blog and content are the copyright of Accredited Training International.  Content can be quoted, extracted or shared with permission.  ATi do not accept responsibility for the content of external links that are outside of our control. For media enquiries, please email

The EU referendum: business as usual


So, after our referendum last Thursday on 23 June, the UK has decided to leave the European Union. Although this decision has been made, we of course don’t exactly know when, or at this point, how.  What is clear though is that it will happen at some point, over the next 2 years.

Business as usual

What effect will this have on Britain the UK and Europe? No-one really knows.  However, in terms of the various services that ATi provide, including our International and UK programmes, I want to be very clear that it is “Business as Usual”.

Already booked?  Still the same great service….

For those of you reading this who are already coming to the UK to join us for our programmes, you are still very much welcome. Indeed, for you there seems to be an immediate advantage, in that the exchange rates may well mean that the cost of your programme in your local currency could be cheaper.  The costs of things in the UK when you arrive therefore also at present cheaper to you than they would have been a few weeks ago!

As far as we can tell, there are no travel restrictions for genuine visitors to attend our programmes. Visa applications, although might take a little longer than previously, are not expected to be any different.

Same standards, same quality

The excellence of our programme content and qualifications remain the same and we continue to work closely and be highly regarded by our Awarding Organisations. Our programmes remain just as credible, important and of value to all of our participants.  In those programmes where we arrange visits to organisations to hear from experts in the field, these are still expected to take place, although we may need slightly longer to negotiate and arrange these.

Looking ahead to the future

Here at ATi we are forward looking, focusing on the many real opportunities of the challenges ahead.  In this new era, we are keen to further arrange our services to even better support you and your organisation in what you need from training, development and qualification programmes.

In Summary

  1. To our international delegates who have already made booking with us, your programmes are very much still running and we look forward to welcoming you. As usual, if you have any questions or are worried about this in any way – please get in touch so we can help resolve these quickly for you.
  2. If you haven’t yet booked and are interested in finding out about our programmes, either here in the UK, in your own country, or through our series of Supported Open Learning programmes, please browse our courses or email us for further details – we will come back to you with straight forward answers as soon as we can
  3. Our other advisory services of course also remain available. Please contact us for help and advice on our full range of services including training, development, quality assurance and accredited qualifications. We are very much here for you – whoever you are, wherever you are from and wherever you want to learn.
  4. To keep up-to-date with our developments and services, why not follow our company page on LinkedIn? We are also on Twitter and Facebook.

With very best wishes
On behalf of the ATi team


Accredited Training International