Why Every Kitchen Needs a Chef

So this past weekend I was reminded that every kitchen needs a chef. You can have a group of fantastic cooks busy working away, but if there isn’t a chef in charge, the dishes just won’t come together.

I recently worked on a strategy presentation with a five-year outlook. It has been a fantastic opportunity to try to envision the future with my peers, and we have all been terrifically excited about the effort. We quickly established that we collaborate quite well. We share common beliefs about the future of technologies, learning requirements, and our student base. We also enjoy the process of bouncing ideas around and seeing what new fun things we can come up with. Our main challenge has been finding time that we can all get together—it is always tough getting busy people together for hours at a time to FOCUS their energies on something that is outside of the normal workload.

So, here is the irony and the moment of enlightenment for me. We work like crazy jamming in strategy session after strategy session. We get market research and spend hours analyzing data, discussing key points and trends, and determining the salient points for what we see as our collective future. We meet with our manager numerous times to review the direction, the draft slides, and the timelines. In the end, we FINISH, we meet the deadline, and we all do our portion and are done. YAY TEAM!

Then yesterday we all got an email asking, “Where are those slides you all promised me?” Whoops, we forgot to assign someone in charge to finish out the task.  I immediately realized, too many cooks, not a single chef.

Every team, whether you assign someone formally to the head chef/leader role or someone assumes that role, needs a leader. That is the person who can help coordinate the entire process. They don’t have to be “in charge” or have the final decision, but they do need to double check to make sure the original objectives are met. If you don’t have someone overseeing the entire process, then it is difficult to recognize when done isn’t done. In our case, we all did our individual projects, but nobody had pulled it together and presented the final package. It was like a group of great cooks had made fantastic dishes, but nobody remembered that we were going to need to serve the meal, not just cook the dishes. Next project I do, I will look for a leader.

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