A couple of Foodie Fridays ago, I wrote about a Cooking LIght piece that discussed some of the more common mistakes we amateur cooks make. Since it’s Friday again (funny how that happens every week or so), I thought I’d present a few more lessons from the kitchen and remind us how what goes on in the kitchen is a lot like what goes on in business.
Today’s first mistake comes from the world of baking. Unlike cooking, baking is very precise, mostly because it’s chemistry. The problems come when untrained bakers begin to make substitutions in a baked good. You know – something sounds too fattening (I hear that’s possible) so you change the butter to oil or applesauce. Maybe you use a sugar substitute instead of some or all of the sugar. That’s a noble idea but it disrupts the basic chemistry of the cake and it often comes out badly. Business is a lot like that. Some supervisors think that all their workers are interchangeable and ignore the basic chemistry of a good team. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking often results in a less than optimal result.
Error number two is not understanding the difference between boiling and simmering. Boiling something happens at a much higher heat than does simmering it gently. While boiling rather than simmering can cook a dish more rapidly, the result is rarely edible. Boiling a stew instead of simmering it can result in tough meat, for example. In business, the equivalent error is yelling and screaming at someone – turning the heat way up – instead of applying a gentle heat that might take a bit longer to work but yields better results.
Finally, many home cooks don’t use thermometers to check the temperature of meat. They rely on timing as stated in a recipe or some calculation like 6 minutes per pound instead of checking to see if the meat has come to a proper temperature. This can result in a product that’s over- or under-cooked. I know of people who don’t rely in measuring devices such as analytics to run their businesses and that’s the equivalent mistake. There’s no way to tell how a business is doing – digital or otherwise – without using impartial measurements of some sort. Just as a beautifully browned roast may not be cooked, a business that looks nice on the outside may not be fit for consumption once you dig in.
Enjoy the weekend!
Friday at last, and we’ll do our usual Foodie thing this week with a focus on doh. That’s not a typo – it’s doh in the Homer Simpson manner: I want to review a few of the most common mistakes we make in the kitchen. The inspiration was a recent piece in Cooking Light. They cited 25 common errors – I’m going to lay out a few this week and maybe we’ll get to some others next week. Of course, the lessons they teach won’t be restricted to the kitchen either…
Image via Wikipedia
The first one is something that I’ll cop to myself : you don’t taste as you go. Old seasonings, a particularly pungent batch of herbs, how much natural sugar is in the food can all affect the taste of the dish and no recipe can account for all of these things. You have to taste as you go and adjust. Of course managers often make that same mistake in their offices – they don’t taste. What I mean is that to get where they are, managers have followed some sort of recipe and generally have written (in their own minds, if not on paper) other recipes for how they want things to run. That’s great, but one has to taste too. I’ve known bosses who lock themselves away in their offices and don’t wander about among their staff speaking, listening – tasting!
Another mistake: you don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking. This is how you get 6 steps into a dish and realize you’re missing an ingredient or haven’t heated the oven or don’t have the right size pan. Figuring out a dish takes an hour longer than you have won’t make whomever you’re feeding very happy. In business, we make that mistake as well. We agree to deals without getting into the fine points of a contract or we begin projects without really thinking through every step. That sometimes results in work grinding to a halt as we hit issues that arise but were very predictable had we thought things through in-depth – had we read the whole recipe.
Finally today, we don’t know our oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. Every oven has hot and cool spots. Baking or roasting without taking those zones into account can result in uneven cooking or over/under done results. The same is true of your staff. If we treat each team member’s work habits as the same we get projects done piecemeal or qualitatively unevenly. Some folks need careful instruction; others need only to be told the basics. We need to make sure we know how often to check on the progress and adjust based on how things are moving along.
Funny how a kitchen is like an office, even when you’re not a cook! Better that we stick to making dough and not making DOH!