This Foodie Friday I’d like to talk about something I hope you have handy in your kitchen: a table of substitutes. There is nothing worse than doing your mise en place and realizing that you’re out of something you need for what you’re making. Maybe it’s sour cream for a dip you decided to whip up to watch TV (use plain yogurt – Greek if you have it!). Maybe you need some buttermilk but only have regular (combine a tablespoon of an acid – lemon juice, vinegar – and enough milk to make a cup). How many large eggs can I substitute in when the recipe calls for jumbo?  Even understanding how to substitute dried herbs for fresh is important (use 1/3 as much dried as fresh). Having a list of things which can serve as alternatives is very handy and can often save a dish.  

We need to do that in business too. When we don’t have the proper things for what we’re trying to accomplish, we need to figure out substitutes. Maybe the higher-ups aren’t giving us the resources we need or maybe the budget isn’t big enough to cover the project at hand. We need to think about alternatives and reframe the problem. Maybe there are exceptions to what we perceive as the norm – organizations who have faced a similar challenge. Can those exceptions point us in another direction?

There are some things for which there are no substitutes.  Good people, for one, and smart, out of the box thinking for another.  I realize that you can’t cook a piece of chicken and call it beef.  Then again, you can substitute turkey for veal in some dishes so maybe chicken for beef isn’t so far-fetched.  That sort of thinking is something in which every organization needs to engage.  What business model can we substitute for our own if things begin to fall apart?

My table of substitutions is tucked away in a kitchen drawer and I rarely need to use it.  I used to have one for my business tucked in a desk drawer – people I might want to hire, companies to replace current partnerships if they fell apart.   Where is yours?

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Filed under Consulting, food

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