Is making a latte an art or a science?

At my favorite local coffee shop this morning I was reminded once again of the value of metrics in any endeavor. It was morning Joe rush hour and the espresso machine was steaming. A friendly but focused barista ground beans, flipped switches and poured liquids. At her left elbow was an assistant, himself an accomplished barista, working in tandem with the barista in charge.

While a cacophony of happy sounds swirled around them, the intent baristas produced a variety of espresso drinks in a steady stream. With their minds and senses fully engaged they listened, sniffed, touched, squinted and occasionally sipped. It’s clear this is not a job you can do well on auto-pilot.

I was struck by how their artistry was grounded in objective measurement. Timers, scales and thermometers were repeatedly consulted to ensure that pre-set standards were met. Variables that could be measured were left neither to chance nor to the whim of the barista on duty. And I can attest that the payoff for this intentionality and discipline is a consistently pleasurable experience for their growing following of patrons.

So what can remodelers (and all small businesses) learn from this? Operating a successful company cannot be reduced to formulas, yet there must be a grounding in objective reality in order to be consistent and sustainable. Critical things that can be identified and measured, should be. Goals should be set for key indicators, and actual performance should be tracked and regularly compared to goal. There is a place for intuition and trusting your gut, and it is in addition to the metrics, not instead of the metrics.

Is your business providing a consistent, predictable experience for your stakeholders? Metrics, properly identified, tracked and communicated, provide the sound foundation for your business artistry to shine.