top of page


A bathroom sink in a common area, will change behaviour.

Journal date: May 8th, 2013

Category: Management systems vs heroes


Walking back from 141 Calle Hortencius, a beautiful suite hanging on the side of a cliff overlooking Banderas Bay. I was checking it out for future stays in Puerto Vallarta. Half way down the hill we stopped at Pollo Feliz, or Happy Chicken. Happy chickens in a chicken restaurant, this is puzzling, but we sat down.

Canadian fast food restaurants are trained not to serve chicken. They will serve a chicken facsimiles, a look alike chicken product, even a work alike chicken pressed product, but real chicken is not acceptable in Canadian fast food. KFC goes one step further and conceals their chicken inside a pound of fat and batter. Getting actual chicken in Vancouver is no simple matter.

In South America and Mexico, (even Miami), they've learned how to cook chicken. Much like Nando's, it's flame charcoal broiled, marinated, just amazing chicken! Excellent, healthy, simple. And that's what Happy Chicken served! Delicious, simple, exceptionally tasty, done over charcoal flames. Enough to serve two people about 80 pesos. We ate, and ate, - loved it.

But more to the point of the story. I excused myself to go to the washroom. Puzzling, no sink, no place to wash your hands. It took a minute then I remembered. It's common in Mexico to put the sink outside the bathroom, in the common area. Often used by both sexes, often visible to the public.

Given this public hand washing system, how many people wash their hands after going to the washroom? In Mexico 100%. Elsewhere in North America, where hand washing takes place in private, about 49% to 65% of people wash their hands.

Are Mexicans cleaner? Not from what I've seen. Then why the difference? Because a hand washing sink in public view generates different behaviour than a sink in private. How we set things up is almost more important than the people we hire. Systems produce their own results independent of the players! 

Companies who rely on their heroic employees, don't have great systems. Conversely, if you have great systems, you don't need hero employees. Just average people doing their job will produce great product. The best and magical combination that makes exceptional companies is a great system staffed by exceptional people. That's the knock out punch!

Sure you could change your people, but why not change your system, move your sinks into public places first, and watch the behaviour change!

Let's build great companies one exceptional person at a time, but lets not forget great systems!


bottom of page