I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a soup to nuts review? It’s a phrase I heard from a colleague many years ago. We were looking at a system made up of a series of processes that had been developed over a period of years, with tweaks made here and there. There was no reason to think that anything was amiss, until the end of the financial year arrived and the finance system had a few surprises up its sleeve. The system had been saying one thing, whilst the finance system was recording another. “Oh dear, we need a soup to nuts review of that system!” he said.

Soup to nuts

It’s an American idiom that refers to a meal made up of several courses. It means from the very start – i.e. the soup as the starter – all the way through to the very end – i.e. the nuts, which are brought out after dessert. (If you were a Roman then apparently you would be saying “from the egg to the apples”, so the idea has been around a long time!)

So a soup to nuts review goes through the whole system from start to finish, end-to-end. As a meal flows naturally from one course to the next, in a logical and predictable sequence, so a soup to nuts review takes in the whole system, from the logical start to the logical end point, following one step after another. Which of course suggests that your systems have a logical flow through it!

Completeness

The phrase soup to nuts also conjures up a sense of completeness, seeing the whole thing, the complete meal from start to finish. Each component has its place, the soup, the main course, the dessert, the nuts and so on. But also within the phrase is hidden the idea of the whole meal. It’s the big picture of the meal, greater than the sum of its separate parts. A meal has its own purpose which is more than a sequence of individual courses.Soup to Nuts Review

So with a system. The big picture is important. The purpose of the whole system needs to be understood. What function does it perform? Is the system even necessary? Has it actually been designed to fulfil its purpose or is it just a series of random processes and steps that have been added in over time. Is there duplication and are there any gaps? Does it create the assurance you need? Is it effective? Is it efficient? Does it actually improve quality and enable things to be done quicker? Does it improve productivity or does it create needless work? Does anyone understand it and have the overview in their heads or is it just done that way because that’s how it’s always been done?

Do you need to do a soup to nuts review?

Are there some systems in your business that could benefit from a soup to nuts review? Start by asking yourself what the system is actually there for before diving in to the detail.

Consider the meal again: it could be either a functional way to consume the required nutrition, purely utilitarian, or there could be a greater purpose. Maybe it’s a social event, an opportunity to share with others, a chance to be creative, or to show off your culinary skills.

A fresh look at your key systems will enable you to review what it’s there for (what it does, or is supposed to do) and how it does it. The way it operates (the how) could create other benefits, eg it might carry messages about the sort of organisation you are, whether it is built to accommodate the people in the organisation or is rigid, inconvenient or impractical. It might encourage people to “work around” it, or it could be easy to use and widely used.

Getting your systems right could give you the control and assurance you need, the efficiency that delivers results and the ease of use that everyone appreciates. Done well, a good system can reinforce people’s views of the organisation…done badly and it could do the same!

Anyway we haven’t answered one key question about a soup to nuts review – what happened to the coffee and chocolates?