“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”
You may remember this jingle that once described the McDonald’s Big Mac. That burger was created to go head-up against the Hardee’s Husky, which was, well, husky, and the first-to-market with a “special sauce.”
Over the years, the term “special sauce” has been re-deployed beyond the burger wars, from condiment to handy metaphor. Management and organizational nerds, like me, have co-opted the term to identify a level of intangible performance that manifests beyond standard expectations.
Organizational special sauce in the marketplace isn’t a strategy or campaign, nor can it be achieved with a slogan or mission statement. No special sauce was ever the fruit of an algorithm, big data, or other amalgamation of ones and zeros. To the chagrin of Wall Street quants and activist investors, organizational special sauce is an incalculable, unprojectable, and intangible force. It’s 100% performance leverage produced by an active ingredient made of highly engaged human beings loving to work together toward something they all believe in.