Management Lessons from the Kitchen

Management Lessons from the Kitchen

Kitchens are a great source of creative ideas and innovations. It amazes me when we probe cooking instructions on what to do and not to do how many ideas relevant to management surface out. I intend to show by examples what I mean.

The Salted Sweets

Taffy is one great example. Taffy is a candy that is widely known as saltwater taffy. Rarely salt water is used as an ingredient and if used only in small amounts. In contrast sugar is a main ingredient and still we don't call the product sugar taffy. Is it our tendency to make the sweet salty, or is it to elude ourselves that we balance the sweet with some salt?

I imagine each ingredient of making taffy as a team member. How me tackle the ingredients, process them, store them and the order by which we add team members (ingredients) may provide us with a fresh look to team formation. The main ingredients are sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, butter and small amounts of colorants and flavoring ingredients.

The paradox is although the main ingredients are sugars and sugar polymers (Starch); yet we may end up with salty results. Here we may derive many lessons pertinent to management.

The process of making taffy involves boiling the mixture of ingredients (excluding colorants and flavoring materials) in a kettle using while stirring using a wooden spoon and not a metal one. We add the syrup ingredient (equivalent to a team member) to mainly stop the crystallization of simple sugars. The long chains of the sugary syrup cage the simple sugar molecules from crystallizing.


We notice two paradoxes here. The first one is that long chain sugars cage in short chain sugars. A sweet cages a sweet. We tend to deal with sweet employees or team members by using salty approaches or show them salty faces. It might be far better to handle faulty sweet team members by caging them with extended "sugary arms".

The second paradox is that we add syrup to deter the crystallization of simple sugars; however we keep stirring the mixture vigorously and sometimes with metal stirrers. The simple sugars in the resulting syrup are then allowed to react and form table sugar. The resulting taffy shall not be what we desired for. Not only that, but we tend also to scratch the sugars deposited on the sides of the pot back into the resulting syrup. Stirring will splash more sugar on the sides of the cooking pot and only to make inferior taffy.

The analogy to management here is that we tend to keep stirring employees when it is not needed. In fact, sweet employees will even be the cause of having inferior products and services. Sweet employees once reach their "boiling point" need not be stirred and better are left alone. To worsen the situation more, we may break those sugary employees into harmful products. Sugars heating may lead to some very useful products; the complete burning of sugars will only produce water and carbon dioxide as a pollutant to the work environment.

This reminds me of burn out employees. Some managers tend to burn out sweet employees completely by stressing them overly. Yes, these employees are likely to produce more with little burning out, but to burn them completely is simply an action of crime.

Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak says that β€œResearch indicates that if you put someone who is not a team player on a team that is functioning well, that one person can impact the performance of that team by 40 per cent.” My question is how about management that burns sweet employees and burn them and the organization and how much they cost? Or, they sideline the sweet employees to the sides of the organization and make them salted sweets how much more they cost their organizations?

We don't only cook meals; more we cook managerial lessons.


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Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#15
Thank you for your feedback Randall Burns

Randall Burns

Randall Burns

4 years ago #12

Interesting read Ali Anani, great metaphor which i can definitely relate to

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#7
Very interesting comment Stephane \ud83d\udc1d Fenner. Some people use the peels of orange, lemons and even water melons to flavor cakes or as a fodder for animals instead of throwing their leftovers. What I mean we may still be kinder to employees once we squeeze their last drop of juice.

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#12
Because of your lovely comment, my nexe buzz shall be on spacetime of decision making dear Sara Jacobovici

Sara Jacobovici

Sara Jacobovici

4 years ago #9

#8
Agreed Ali Anani. Thanks for the important reminder of the time factor. You have expanded on the idea of "timing". It's great how you can hold and see the whole picture/process in your mind.

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#5
Thank you dear Jeet Sarkar and I appreciate your voicing your opinion.

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#4
Thank you for expressing your views so clearly dear CityVP \ud83d\udc1d Manjit. Using "foreign" metaphors may help in seeing new perspectives. The selection of a metaphor is subject to few shortcomings. I tend myself to use different metaphors and then compare perspectives. I published one example on using four different metaphors for leadership and each one gave some unique perspectives even though they had many commonalities among them.

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#3
You are correct dear Gert Scholtz- we need heating, but not over heating to burn the mix or humans. We don't say we don't need to heat up the team; equally we don't want to burn the team members.

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#2
Beautifully expressed dear Sara Jacobovici "to be aware of what we put "into the mix" when it comes to business". You said it in few words. I may only add and when to put in the mix. For example, volatile flavors should be put last and when only the mix cools down. So, are volatile characters of team members.

Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

#1
Dear debasish majumder- you ask a grea question "it trigger us to ponder, how far we are capable of controlling our aptitude to produce a favorable results? "

CityVP Manjit

CityVP Manjit

4 years ago #3

I am not comfortable with cooking metaphors for employees. Employees have been cooked for generations. We should be focused on the cooking of managers because so many of them these days are half-baked by poor HR practices. Add to this popular adages like "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar" are being myth-busted, for we can catch more fruit-flies with vinegar https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562214/ Maybe the actual problem of work is that managers are more sweet and sour than they are managers. This also explains HR failures like employee engagement rates and value destroying employee appraisals. Even mentoring is being re-examined in light of new evidence. It seems that politics is rather late to the fake news and alternative facts, it seems that our resolve to solve employee issues have had the HR profession practicing this form of sorcery much longer than present day politics is now discovering now we have the first CEO president.

Gert Scholtz

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #2

Ali Anani A great analogy Ali. Managers can indeed stir employees too much to the point of being counterproductive and in worst cases burnout. Burnout is something I see more and more. Perhaps the chase after budgets, performance and company objectives all contribute - but a manager can do a lot to "soothe the pot" and prevent burnout among his employees. The wise manager observes individuals carefully and knows when to stir and when to soothe.

Sara Jacobovici

Sara Jacobovici

4 years ago #1

Great perspective Ali Anani. You always succeed in putting life back into business. And by that I mean that for me, you remind us that every aspect of business involves people and people are organic and not objects. If one is to create a team as if putting together a board game with pieces, then the team is set up for failure before it even meets for the first time. Dr. Ali, by discussing team members as ingredients and that they have qualities or properties that influence the "taste, texture" and outcome of the "recipe", you remind us very strongly to be aware of what we put "into the mix" when it comes to business. Thanks again for a very enlightening buzz.

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