Gordon Ramsay, Darcey Bussell and Your Next Re-Org


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When we are faced with a problem, maybe a new competitor, a cost challenge, a product launch or simply a new job, we marshal our forces to deal with it.

  • We reform our departments
  • Shuffle our management teams
  • Hire the right talent
  • Politely ask those who aren’t performing to the standard we expect to leave.

We reorganise. It is the right and obvious thing to do.

It might be obvious but is it right?

I saw a video last night about a restaurant kitchen (you can watch it below).

I was mesmerised by the way the chefs and waiters worked. Everybody knew what everybody else would do next, where the pans would be put, where the ingredients would be placed, when the dishes would be ready.

All this fervent activity was in a tiny kitchen, yet people didn’t bump and bash into one another. The movements were perfect.

It was better than clockwork, it was far more fluid than that, it was verging on balletic.

Ballet dancing takes time, practice and teamwork

I don’t know of a short cut to build an organisation that is so in sync as that kitchen. If you want your business to work that seamlessly it takes time and it takes practice and it takes teamwork.

You can train your staff, you can document your processes, you can develop world-class strategies and you can bring in new blood, but untill your staff know, like, respect and trust each other then a beautiful performance won’t happen.

That level of teamwork only comes with time.

So why would you reorganise?

Reorganisations are like buses; hang around for long enough and one will arrive. Every other year a new executive will move in and the first thing he’ll do is throw the organisation up in the air and see how it lands, disrupting the ballet and creating a whole new set of power plays, turf wars and misunderstandings.

The customers still need feeding, but the ballet in the kitchen stops

Maybe you should tread lightly with your next re-org and focus on improving the system instead.

We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation. ~ Petronius Arbiter 65 A.D.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Lawther
James Lawther is a middle-aged middle manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for many organisations, from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had multiple roles from running a night shift to doing operational research. He gets upset by operations that don't work and mildly apoplectic about poor customer service.


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