Taco Bell – Seeing Business as a System

Cornelius “Connie” Calao
Chief People Officer
Taco Bell

Our leadership at Taco Bell needed to seriously examine the way we operated our restaurants. We needed significant change at every level to increase restaurant revenue. Our senior team concluded that we needed to &quote; define the whole&quote; – the way the system should work. However, in many ways, we didn’t have a system. We weren’t defining and building the business system, including processes and behaviors needed to drive consistent results across the enterprise. In addition, we learned that our management approach showed a lack of belief in its people. Leaders assumed that people weren’t accountable.

Clarify, Simplify, Integrate

This transformation required HR and Operations to work together, and ultimately, our HR team led the execution of the future state, The Bold Future, throughout our organization.

With Root Learning, our Senior Operations Team created an honest assessment of our current reality and determined ground rules and behaviors for ourselves and then for the entire organization. Root Learning conducted interviews to inform both states.

The conclusions were to clarify, simplify, and integrate operations at the corporate level before sharing new processes with the field; to move from task management to coaching; to focus on managers as leaders; to enable managers to be effective coach-players. Root facilitated candid conversations so leaders could engage our organization to take performance to the next level. The goal was to create a single integrated view – “One System” – to move business performance forward.

Next, the message needed to engage everyone in the Bold Future strategy. At a “One System” conference, our company and franchise field leaders took part in a Learning Map® experience designed to communicate how everyone contributed to the current state, frame the picture for the future, and generate excitement about creating this together.

Creating “Sucess Routines”

A session for restaurants, Delivering the Taco Bell Promise, detailed roles and responsibilities so restaurant teams could fully understand and act on the new roles to support the strategy. To sustain the Bold Future Strategy, leaders had to improve their servant leadership and coaching skills, with the focus on driving sustainable results with their teams. Root Learning created two experiences focused on servant leadership that included dialogue, card activities, and games to practice new skills that would result in meeting the metrics and would enable Area Coaches to prioritize daily and weekly activities.

To build the skills needed at all levels to support the Bold Future, we created a visual and video session that presented roles, activities, and templates for facilitating planning and coaching. A session for restaurants detailed all roles and responsibilities so restaurant teams could fully deploy the new roles to support the strategy.

When we found that our current process for assessing how a restaurant is doing on operations and customer service wasn’t driving desired business outcomes, we introduced a card deck with supporting visuals that were used to discuss the current state, the new system, and how it connected with the Bold Future. We also created several videos that showcased the new system in action.


A great deal of improvement resulted from looking at our business as a system. Our leadership used engagement in the process and capability as cornerstones to shift our culture and further boost our performance. In responses from the field, it was clear that leadership really understood what it was like to lead a region and area. Everyone was excited about the Bold Future and ready to do their part to make it happen. Taco Bell’s Bold Future made a great impact – not only on the business, but also on the thousands of our leaders across the country.