Gordon Ramsay is The Best Project Manager!

If you haven’t watched Kitchen Nightmares, then I think you are missing out on one of the greatest sources of Project Management education outside of a strong, personal mentor.  For those of you that have not seen the show, the official site says “Each week, Chef Ramsay will visit a new establishment with myriad problems. He will delve deep into the inner workings of each eatery and explore everything from unsanitary refrigerators to lazy and inexperienced staff to diagnose the real problems.”  However, unless you watch the show you can not imagine the intensity of the situations or the fire-storm of emotion that occurs between Chef Ramsay and the various owners.

While I may agree that his language can be strong, I certainly feel that our society and the discipline of Project Management could benefit from the direct, in your face correction that has been the foundation for unparalleled success experienced by Gordon.  Many of these restaurant owners have invested their entire retirement fund, some are becoming sick, and their lives are on the line.  “For many, Ramsay is their last chance to help turn around their businesses or else they’ll be forced to close their doors forever.”   Chef Ramsey doesn’t have the luxury to get everyone in a corner and sing Kumbaya…but he does get them there eventually.  In the midst of project success hovering around 43%, so many folks are still focused on the team building and emotional intelligence aspects of project management.  Remember, I did say that Gordon does get them to Kumbaya.

(Language Warning – Uncensored)

(Language Warning – Uncensored)

Chef Ramsay’s Process is one to observe right off the bat!  He doesn’t come in with an arrogant, I know everything attitude…(Although three Michelin Stars says he does)…

    1. Ramsay shows up and gives a quick look over of the restaurant, reviews the menu and then eats some of the food. (The disgust begins quickly)
    2. After forcing himself through a few bites of several different meals, he then proceeds into the kitchen to meet some more of the staff and share his thoughts (As difficult as the food was for him to swallow, so is the feedback he serves up the ‘chef’)
    3. As you can imagine, things get contentious very quickly.  Ramsay just told the owners their ‘baby was ugly’.  With tension high, Chef then watches the restaurant in action through a dinner service.
    4. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Ramsay continues his with a direct, no-holds barred style of feedback that most people are simply caught off guard with.
    5. With the owners and staff up in arms,  Chef Ramsay goes out to the community and finds past customers to get feedback, he does research on the community, and conducts a competitive analysis.
    6. The next day, he usually comes back to the defensive owners and their staff with a recap of the day before (disbelief continues) and some initial thoughts on what needs to improve…based on the research he conducted.  He then asks the Chef to introduce 1 of his suggestions to the menu for that evening’s dinner service.  This is his ‘pilot’ and he puts it up against the current menu to see how the staff handles it and how the clients receive it.
    7. Once chef has done his review and understood the dynamics of the restaurant (organization), watched their process, conducted some research and inserted a small change…he then tackles the real issues.
    8. Often times, the real issues have nothing to do with the size of a restaurant or the ingredients being used.  That is all basic blocking and tackling for Chef.  What Ramsey does so well has nothing to do with financials, technique or food at all!  Gordon Ramsay, award-winning chef gets into the people aspect of the respective owners business.  He shifts from technical expert to listener, counselor, and mentor.  He speaks to each person and finds out what is really bugging them.  For some it is their father’s respect, other episodes have brothers competing for leadership, and some others it is simply a matter of pride.  Regardless, these people have some serious issues.
    9. With all the tools in-hand, he begins to work his magic.  At the end of the service, he does another recap to call issues with the physical restaurant, the menu/food, and personalities.  He tells them in the morning to come back and be ready to work.  Remember, these people are very angry with his ‘bull in a china shop’ approach, but again, Ramsay’s genius steps in…before letting them go, he shares a compliment and entices them with change!
    10. The next day Gordon usually meets the crew outside with an energetic, expecting welcoming.  The owners shift from anger to curious as they are ushered into what is almost a new restaurant.  The shows team comes in to provide an overhaul of décor, new equipment, etc.  The transformation is usually enough to have the owners in tears of joy and finding themselves loving Chef Ramsay.  THEN, just as they are on the thankful ‘high’, Ramsay hits them with a brand-new menu.  Explaining it as new, fresh and unique to the community.
    11. Once everyone has had their fill of new and exciting, Chef reels them all back in with a recap of how much work is left to do.  He reminds them of the disaster it all was when he arrived and how the ‘tools’ are at their disposal and success is theirs for the taking.
    12. With the menu and physical restaurant addressed, Ramsay then moves into the final phase of the project….the emotional, people side of the business.  He pulls the key players (usually the owners, sometimes executive chef) of to the side for some heartfelt exercise. (i.e. – Sometimes they write a letter to one another sharing their feelings)  With all the emotion of the new restaurant and the lure of success at that doorstep, the majority of folks usually come to an emotional healing as well.
    13. With everything set for success, Ramsay does one more thing…creates an opportunity for success.  Usually he will lend his influence to pack the restaurant, have a local mayor come in, or get some food critics to review their Grand Re-Opening.

A few points we can learn from the show….

      1. Watch, review, and understand the current process before you start sharing all of your expertise
      2. Don’t put lipstick on a pig!  Teams waste more time trying to build the team and develop relationship when sometimes you just need to yank the band-aid off.  There is plenty of time for team building and growth., but if you are dancing around it, then you are wasting time and losing momentum.
      3. Try implementing a pilot or small change, that is backed by data/research before the full-blown initiative.  Gain trust.
      4. Systems and tools are important, but don’t forget the people!
      5. When it is time to go big, get them excited and visualizing success.  Don’t forget to remind them why you’re doing it…the pain point you’re solving.
      6. Support them…give them an opportunity and be their to help them achieve success.
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4 thoughts on “Gordon Ramsay is The Best Project Manager!

  1. I really enjoyed your perspective on Gordon Ramsey’s project management style. I think you are right on..and as I don’t agree with his approach on certain things his results are impeccible and we can’t lose sight of that. A great leader is one that uplifts and uses positive reinforcement however, he is hired to do one thing only and he does do that very well. Moreover, some of the people he works with seem a bit incompetent and completely in denial of their wrong doings. Therefore, his abbrasive approach in my opinion is understable.

  2. The approach/process of watch, research, counsel, and rip the band-aid off and confront the real issues is great! His style is what most people have the issue with. In Corporate America, he would be a walking HR violation….lol.

    Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment Oscar!

  3. I like Ramsey’s style and I think you’ve captured a good list of insights into how to run a project like he would. I love how they’re always skeptical of his approach until their place is completely made over.

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