Becoming a Chef at Performance Management


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Becoming a Chef at Performance Management

  1. 1. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 1 Performance Management “à la” Gordon Ramsay (Becoming a Chef at Performance Management)
  2. 2. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 2 Note I tried contacting G. Ramsay to get his agreement on this paper, which is the honest thing to do before writing anything about anyone. But, since I don’t know the man personally, he did not reply to my request. Nevertheless, I hope that this paper will fare well with him (if he gets to read it) especially considering that it is not an attempt to use his celebrity and talent to my credit, but rather using a non- obvious and interesting example for discussing a topic that is close to me. Being French, I could have picked Napoleon as my example, but this paper is about performance management, not strategy.
  3. 3. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 3 Becoming Gordon Ramsay without the abuse Probably because I’m French, I like watching cooking programs and learn new tricks from Michelin’s star chefs. Not only do they have unmatched talent and skills to produce astonishing dishes, they are entrepreneurs, line managers, and more recently (thanks to the BBC) entertainers. What I also like is that, like you and me, they are human and not equally gifted in all aspects of what looks like a very complex job. One that I particularly like is Gordon Ramsay. If I don’t necessarily agree with the verbal abuse that has become his trademark, he is one of few daring to present himself in situation, running a kitchen. Most other chefs appearing on TV are engaged in one-on-one intercourse with a camera, displaying their technical skills at length, which is somewhat different to running a ‘real’ kitchen. Any manager, even the most self-centered could present an amiable profile in a one-to-one conversation and reserve their true self for their team. Therefore, there is courage in what Mr. Ramsay does. Finally and that’s the point of this paper, G. Ramsay with all his colorful language is a living example of management competencies that we can all learn from. When it comes to performance management, we can become chefs looking at the way he runs his crew and that’s what this paper does.
  4. 4. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 4 Performance management “à la G. Ramsay” (Cooking time +/- 2 years – serves small to large number of guests) Ingredients 100% systematic refusal of mediocre performance. Chop down mediocre performance. In his colorful way, G. Ramsay draws a clear line to each aspiring chef working in his kitchen. He is the gate keeper of the food that gets out of hell’s kitchen and on the plate of the customer. Catching a mistake will seriously aggravate the man. 20g of immediate performance feedback Add a good amount of feedback. By throwing things around and back to the sender, he gives immediate and individually tailored performance feedback to his team members. The most impressive displays of rage happen whenever something less than perfect gets through that gate. 1x very strong customer focus Warm up with customer focus. Whenever less than perfect food gets passed him, he is confronted with several problems: - a lack of performance in his team - a flow in his own quality control process It is the second that probably causes the explosion because it confronts the chef to his sense of responsibility toward his customers, as well as his own standards of performance which are not being fulfilled, all that being enough to get him started. 1x fresh will to develop team members Finish with a touch of praise. Well that’s pretty much the principle of the show and there surely is an economic motivation to it, nevertheless, seeing one’s ability develop will make our chef show himself under a different (positive) light and praise the progress and good performance. In that, he is not very different from our every day manager who develops people not because of an unconditional love of mankind but because their improved results will help them getting the new beemer. Having said that, Chef Ramsay is probably more deliberate in praising what’s good and highlighting what’s not than most of us are.
  5. 5. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 5 Additionally, Gordon Ramsay is a true situational leader. His show could be displayed as schoolbook example at the Ken Blanchard Company. In few steps, he provides leadership instructions covering the whole range of ability from enthusiastic beginner to high achiever by first demonstrating the steps of a particular recipe (D1) then letting the team try it on (D2) then letting the team do it for real (D3) then letting the team come up with their own recipes (D4). All these points contributing to my thinking that besides making perfect fish and ships, we can learn a thing or two from G. Ramsay when it comes to performance management.
  6. 6. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 6 It’s all about standards In performance management, you get what you tolerate. A zero tolerance policy for mediocre performance is the starting point of great performance. A manager should not tolerate anything below their standard, unless medical or emotional conditions contribute to an exceptional situation. When that is the case, this team member needs to be addressed separately and given work that will meet acceptable performance standards while an effort is made to recover the medical or emotional balance. If that is not possible, then this team member needs to be removed from the team: “thank you for your efforts now get out of Hell’s kitchen”. But of course and fortunately, employment laws protect associates from what would otherwise be an unforgiving selection process. Additionally there is a catch in that standards should apply equally to all, hence the word standard…The managers setting high standards for others and low for themselves will rapidly find themselves at odds with their team, and that’s where G. Ramsay has an edge on some of us; first and foremost, he is a great cook! Once you’ve got your standards right, it’s also about developing an acute sense of responsibility for the customer experience. What gets on the customer’s plate has G. Ramsay’s label on it, independently of who cooked it. Whatever your team members are doing is done by you. No manager should ever hide behind their team or pretend that the manager is only as good as their team. The minute one does that, he or she stops servicing the customer. Again this is where standards will come to the rescue, one need to set superior standards of excellence. A manager with low standards will necessarily achieve low performance. Finally, it’s about immediate and tailored feedback. There is no mistaking or playing around about who’s doing a good job and who’s failing the customer in G. Ramsay’s kitchen. It may be tough but people who are doing a good job ALWAYS get to hear about it. Similarly, people who are not, also ALWAYS hear about it. The fact that this feedback is given early on allows these people to recover from what could be a “normal” mistake, or what could be an inability to perform. This is only possible because the manager cares about his customers and about developing his team. Without feedback there can be no realization and no progress.
  7. 7. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 7 Where we could all improve in performance management (and that includes G. Ramsay) Clear performance expectations – It is one thing to have high standards, it’s another to ensure that they are known and understood by our staff. Ramsay knows what he wants: a Michelin’s star experience in every plate but do the candidates understand this standard? I’m not sure. It seems that most of them are seasoned chefs but operating in radically different environments. My mom who’s an old lady and a good cook would get some abuse from Chef Ramsay while producing her best plate of food because although better than most on the show (I’d say, being a good son and all) her food is no Michelin’s star material, just good family food. Wouldn’t G. Ramsay make his life easier by getting the candidates to become intimate with what Michelin’s level quality standards are? That would require them to seat at the table of the Michel and Albert Roux of this world, rather than on shopping trips, or motor cruises whenever they have done something well. But, that surely would be worth it. At the end of the day, maybe they do? (I don’t watch the show every week). There is a side benefit to these trips though; they provide a safe environment where the Chef can level with his team and present his most approachable profile. A manager will have interest in providing such moments, while staying clear from the schizophrenic side of it, which consists in showing our good profile only outside of the office. Relating to the team at personal level will play a crucial role when the going gets tough and the team has to cope with you, your standards, and the customer pressure. Tailored rewards – Ramsay rewards good performance, punishes bad performance, and gives tailored feedback. The show being a game facilitates the principle. The team meeting the performance expectations during the challenges is indeed rewarded. Unfortunately, the nature of the reward is too random and collective to be considered good management practice. Ideally, some of these people would want to be given different rewards matching their different needs. Ideally, you’d like to reward them in their own ways (some might want some time with their family, some might want to learn something from the great Chef, and so on). Nevertheless, as a general principle, it’s perfect! Similarly, bad performance is punished with chores and up to the capital punishment which is to be sent home. There again, it is proper as a general mechanism, though employment laws prevent us from sending poor performers home too easily. To be generally acceptable, G.Ramsay’s practices would have to be extended with an analysis of what went wrong in the performance delivery and a research of correction by the team in order to come back on the performance track. Then on, it would become proper performance management, but a rather boring TV show.
  8. 8. Becoming a Chef at Performance Management H.Brittmann, Becoming Manager. 8 Summary G. Ramsay in his show, set high standards of performance, takes entire responsibility for the customer experience, coaches his teams according to situational principles, gives immediate feedback and praise, and finally rewards good performance and punishes bad one. It is a simple recipe and that’s all it takes to become a chef at performance management.