Project Management Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

I came across the article “Project Management Lessons Learned in the Kitchen” and found it very interesting after reading it.

The article is intriguing in a way that it relates a good cook to a good project manager.  It talks about areas that both a PM and a Cook need to focus on in order to get their task done correctly and lists them in steps.

  • A cook needs to read the recipe all the way through and a good PM also needs to make sure they understand the requirements and guidelines so they know what the expected final product should be like.
  •  A cook needs to do things in certain order similar to a PM.  You can’t do everything all at once and some things have to happen before others.
  • A cook has to watch the clock to make sure nothing is over or under cooked.  A PM also has to make sure they watch the clock and ensure the work is done in the time promised.
  • Both have to make sure to not over commit.  Over committing for a cook can cause them to include too many ingredients which end up costing too much.  Over committing for a PM could end up hurting the end product as you might have committed to doing too much work in too little time.
  • Filling in the gaps is an important part of both roles as well.  A cook will start stirring or preparing another item while one dish is in the oven or on the stove.  A good PM needs to do the same thing.  It is important that the time is used wisely and assigned to getting the things that you were putting off done.

The reason I found this article to be interesting is that I would have never thought of those two tasks to be so similar.  Often at my work I find people not using the above steps in their process.  Sometimes our PM’s don’t read all the requirements or guidelines from the clients only to find out very close to the end that the end result is not what the client was exactly looking for.  PM’s will also lose track of the clock or days in the project world as they get busy with other work not realizing they are too close to the deadline with more work than anticipated remaining.  Overcommitting is often a common problem in our industry as you have multiple companies and salesman that bid for the same job.  Often our salesmen overcommit to what we can provide only to result in the company not making the expected margin on the project or having an unsatisfied client.

This is an interesting article for all those in the project management world to read as everyone can easily relate a project to cooking and once people realize that just like cooking has to be done in steps, so does a project!

Article – Project Management Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

19 thoughts on “Project Management Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

  1. That’s an interesting analogy. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself, but it does make sense. I would also add flexibility to that list. A cook may have to adjust a recipe on the fly if they run out of an ingredient just like a PM would have to adjust the project resources if some sort of unforeseen issue derailed the project.

  2. This post made me think about project management lessons learned in the karate dojo.

    – A karate instructor needs to form a lesson plan before teaching class and a project manager needs to develop a project plan before starting a project.
    – A karate instructor needs to teach things in a certain order and a project manager needs to facilitate the completion of tasks in a certain order.
    – A karate instructor needs to watch the clock to ensure that class ends on time and a project manager needs to watch the clock to ensure that the project completes on time (and under budget).
    – A karate instructor needs to make sure that new students are a good fit for the class and a project manager needs to make sure that new resources are appropriate for the project.
    – A karate instructor instructs a class and a project manager leads a project team.

  3. Hi Asif,

    I think that these steps are virtually the same for most tasks, but people don’t think of what they are doing as formally as this. Following these steps ensures that you are “on top of” all the aspects of the project/task. My husband, the project manager, believes that most of what we want to accomplish can be approached from a project management perspective.

  4. Very interesting post. All points made can be directly applied to project management to help you become successful. When I cook, I am always looking for ways to improve the meal by changing the directions within the recipe slightly, adding different ingredients, etc. As a project manager, you should always be looking to improve your strategies, processes, and tools.

  5. This is interesting, it shows you how similar any two jobs can be, a cook and a PM being so different but containing a lot of the same roles. It also shows how wide the range is of job description of a PM. A PM ends up doing many tasks and has to be aware of everyone’s tasks, making it a very difficult but versatile role.

  6. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the title was the show Chopped, which is a competitive food challenge show on the Food Network. The assertion that cooks and project managers have many things in common could not be farther from the truth. On Chopped, there are 4 contestants competing for one spot. There are three rounds, or “projects” in this instance, that each individual has to compete. They are timed and have specific ingredients that must be used in order to avoid elimination. Similarly, project managers must know how to manage their time and resources effectively to achieve an end goal!

  7. I really enjoyed reading this article and your thoughts. For me, I really enjoy cooking so it reminded me of how much project management we as humans do on a daily. As for people who enjoy cooking, we often are always trying to make the best meal possible without taking too much time to do so.We plan what we are going to cook and then execute our plan in strategic steps. We are completing projects everyday while incorporating other skills like multitasking( stirring rice while cutting vegetables)and organizational leadership(managing our time in the kitchen as well as organizing the meal as a whole).

  8. I agree with Kristin this article definitely made me think of shows on the food network but it made me think more Master Chef than Chopped. Master Chef is more professional than chopped because many mistakes are made in chopped by most chefs that go on that show. In Master Chef in order to win the show you must be a “Master Chef” whom is able to “Master” all types of dishes and know what flavors to blend into specific dishes to make them perfect. The same goes for a PM, a PM must know the best steps to move forward in a project. The PM cannot be an inexperienced member who knows nothing about how to accomplish the project. They must be insightful and be able to be flexible and know the proper remedy to mend situations that may arise.

  9. I found this article interesting as well. It shows that any field of work from cooking to business requires some sort of project manager to be successful. In order for a person to do their job well, they have to come up with a strategic plan to achieve their goals. This got me thinking to the activity we did today in class–making skyscrapers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. By having one person in the group be the project manager, they took the initiative and came up with a plan to construct a sky scraper. Similar to a cook, the project manager in the group had to make sure they were not over-committed and had fulfilled the requirements within the time and budget constraint.

  10. This is a great article because most people would never think to correlate a chef and a project manager, and yet they are absolutely similar from an operational point of view. Today in Operational Management class, I was assigned to be the project manager for our group and was in charge of making sure our group was operating efficiently, devoting a reasonable amount of time to each task, staying under budget, completing the task within the allotted time, and making sure that the task was completed to pass a certain level of quality. Just as I did today in class, a chef would also use the same operational checkpoints to achieve a desired product, and in that essence, I can definitely see the point of the article and relate it to many different jobs, tasks, and life-decisions.

  11. This article you have read seemed very interesting, I love how it related food to project managements. One statement that you said that caught my attention was, “A cook needs to do things in certain order similar to a PM. You can’t do everything all at once and some things have to happen before others”. I thought this was interesting because it is very true. When cooking, a chef cant bake the cake with out the cake batter, just like in project management you need to build something first then build off of that step. A project manager cant do everything all at once, otherwise their whole project could become a flustered mess. Just like in our lesson we did today, you cant create the tower of spaghetti without some planning ahead. The planning ahead is a necessary step in order to create the tower you wish, with out it you could waste countless time trying to figure out what to do. Im sure a cook plans ahead just like a project manager would.

  12. I really enjoyed reading the article. The analogy was really interesting. Relating the job of a cook with a project manager made me think that in our everyday lives everyone is a project manager. At the place we work we all have to read/know the instructions and the order before we start working on a task.We all try to find the most efficient way to complete the task to “get the biggest return in our investment” i.e. finding a way to complete the task within a short time, we multitask or fill in the gaps. Also the same as a project manager we have the ability to address an issue or come up with a solution or address an opportunity or rick as they come up to our managers.

  13. I have been browsing articles for the past five minutes and I have to say that the headline alone had me intrigued. I do like the comparison between a PM and a cook, would have never thought of the two to be similar in conducting their tasks. I have to admit that I do not see any of these practices being fully executed at my job, our PM tends to skip out on reading all the requirements and details listed by our company and doesn’t have the best time management. These are all areas that can be easily improved on and now that I am part of the PM team at work, I intend to take this bit of information with me back to my team in order to be more efficient and to lead our sales staff to achieve our daily and monthly goals.

  14. I really like this comparison because from experience in the kitchen I’ve recognized the huge importance of timing in making good food. A lot like how a project manager helps facilitate the work flow through extensive planning, a cook is required to organize a game plan to create a dish. I thought about the need for flexibility in them both; in the kitchen you may not have all the right ingredients but its takes someone who is mindful of their other options and somebody willing to be creative with what else is available. A project manager is really effective when their creative and they keep flexibility. Terrific comparison.

  15. hi. asif. Its a really interesting article. From your article, we can easily know that the process of management and cook are almost the same. When we are cooking, if we do it step by step, i believe the food will be tasty and have a good looking to attract people. In other words, once we know the process of a project, it will be easier for us to held that activity. Obviously the management plays the important role in each project. For this reason, we’d better plan everything before we do it.

  16. Great article. I’ve experienced working with cooks as a server in the food industry and with PM’s in my past corporate internship and have never realized the connection that both positions have in terms of similar responsibilities. The process the brain goes through while working in each position is very similar- just that a cook and a PM are experts in different industries in terms of processes and terminologies that they received their education in. Multitasking and making things work on the go are key aspects of each position as you mentioned- PM’s and cooks can plan all they want but things never go perfectly. Also the final solution is never black and white for a cook or PM. The processes they go through in delivering their solutions are never EXACTLY the same each time. This is why it is crucial for those hiring a cook or PM to be exhaustive and challenging during the interview process to ensure they are hiring the right people who can come up with creative solutions to get the job done.

  17. I enjoyed reading the article. A cook has to be on top of every order that comes in. Timing can be crucial to this if something is over or under cooked that can be an expenses the restaurant has to pay out. Both a project manager and cook need to be looking for ways to improve their skills both need to be someone knowledgeable over each others tasks.

  18. This is a unique view on a project manager. I had not thought of a cook as a project manager before, but after reading this article I am amazed that I had not made the connection before. Cooking a big family dinner can be seen as a project and the host of the dinner the project manager. This insightful view of cooking a dinner being a project has blown me away. Yes, when cooking together we have to collaborate and use our individual strength’s to contribute to the meal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *