The chef never runs the restaurant

Don’t confuse product quality with execution excellence.

Unless you are talking about Gordon Ramsay, most chefs perform a very different job from the person who actually runs the restaurant. There are good reasons for this and yet in business and even with personal projects we often let the pursuit of quality trump actual progress. Quality is still important but there has to be a trade-off with the much more demanding challenge: actually getting things done. [1st of 5 paragraphs]

There is a usually a level of quality above which any additional 1% improvement will require a disproportionate % of delays and costs. Don’t forget this tried and trusted rule of zero-sum-gain in projects, and that’s exactly why chefs don’t run the restaurant. And the singer doesn’t run the concert, or the star programmer doesn’t run the software project, and the CFO doesn’t run the company (but he often makes a very good CEO.) [2/5]

It’s the same reason so many best seller manuscripts are still… manuscripts. The author is pursuing perfection, not completion. Of course there is a minimum threshold of quality – rushing something for the sake of completing it is just as bad (and a mistake I have made too often). Finding the balance between getting something done well enough but within an overall plan is difficult – it’s actually a skill all on its own. [3/5]

My personal experience of writing a book and running large IT projects at work has taught me this simple truth. I could have gone on perfecting my manuscript for another 6 months; it was tough to draw a line after 4 years but worth it when I saw the book on the shelves. In IT there is always another defect to fix or requirement to add in; make sure the software works and is well tested but sometimes you just need to switch it on. [4/5]

Ironically most restaurant reviews focus on the quality of the meal; if it’s 5 star the rest of the experience is important but largely peripheral. The chef gets the credit but it’s the rest of the organisation behind the scenes that allows his work to be the set piece. The best chefs acknowledge that and while they don’t run the restaurant they also only work with someone who actually can. [5/5]

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