Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's cooking got to do with running a team?

A few years ago I was reading a technical book (can't remember title) and the author mentioned that if you really wanted to learn how to run a team you should study how professional kitchens are organised. He (or she) recommended a book by Anthony Bourdain called Kitchen Confidential. I bought it, read it and have been hooked ever since on studying the world of professional kitchens. Good professional kitchens don't have the luxury of muddling through teamwork - it would be a disaster. The author was right, the corporate world can learn a lot from good professional kitchens.

Granted, I can't cook myself. I'm lucky that my wife is a fantastic cook. I do all my study through books and mostly the sad practice of watching TV chef programmes! My favorites: Hells Kitchen, The Restaurant, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares and the most ironic of all since I can't cook myself - MasterChef. I can't help myself! I just think they are a brilliant study of the dynamics of human interaction and teamwork in a high pressured environment. Remove all the stuff designed to improve TV ratings and look at the core interactions. Surprisingly, I've learned some things which I try to incorporate into my own teams.

Think about this. Imagine your work team trying to do a full professional dinner service in a busy restaurant. Now think about what you could learn from the kitchen professionals by applying their practices to your own team.

What have I learned? Communicate, communicate, communicate. Leave ego's outside. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're wrong, say so. Learn from your mistakes. Give credit where credit is due. Support your team members (particularly if you are a manager). Everybody should be clear about their jobs. There should only be one boss.

Fairly obvious stuff, right? How often does the corporate world get it right?