Wednesday, 24 April 2013 08:21

Project Nightmares - Gordon Ramsay to the Rescue!

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dow FeatureArticle April24I am a huge Gordon Ramsay fan; from Kitchen Nightmares, to Hell's Kitchen, across-the-board Ramsay is both an entertainer and expert in his field. The magic he works turning around restaurants is amazing. If you spend any time watching Ramsay, and actually listening to him – which people forget to do – he clearly knows what he is talking about in the restaurant business. He has success around the world, is a proven leader, and people should be honored to work with him.

Recently, I was watching an episode of FOX's Kitchen Nightmares,(Mauk, Hayden T.,(Senior Producer), Raigel, Scott (Producer),(2013) Kitchen Nightmares [Television Series] and I started thinking about what Ramsay does when he evaluates restaurants. Many of those same processes could easily be modified to the project management industry regarding the way we evaluate our projects. If you are not familiar with the show, let me walk you through how he turns around restaurants.

Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares Evaluation Process

  1. Samples the food (he tries almost the whole menu)
  2. Review of the surroundings (color, lighting, atmosphere, etc.)
  3. Review of the kitchen processes (billing, wait staff, line cooks, how orders are processed, etc.)
  4. Review of staff (including qualifications, background, experiences of owners, wait staff, bartenders, chiefs, etc.)
  5. Review of fridges (walk-in's, freezers, food quality, etc.)

And the list goes on and on.

After Ramsay spends the time and evaluates these multiple areas, he then starts recommending ways to improve the restaurant. He changes the menu, redecorates, changes processes, hires chefs, and sets up the restaurant up for success. After Ramsay leaves, it is up to the restaurant owner to keep everything Ramsay has set up or they could quickly fall back into trouble.

So, let's think about this process that Ramsay does for a second: he comes in, he evaluates, he recommends, he changes, he leaves – a successful working restaurant – all in a matter of weeks.

Now, let’s look at this from a project management perspective.

What happens in the project management world when we evaluate projects? Well, it usually starts with projects going through an auditing process. Project auditing has been going on for years. During these auditing processes, we repeatedly hear, “you don't have this deliverable,” or “this schedule is out-of-date,” or “you are not tracking your budget.” It tends to be of little value from a project manager’s perspective.

And ladies and gentleman THAT is the problem!

That process of looking at projects from a purely audit-taking perspective is where I believe we are going wrong in the project management industry. This is not what Ramsay does when he goes into restaurants. He is not an auditor, nor list-checker, but he is an expert in the restaurant business that knows how they run and why they fail. He has seen restaurants repeatedly make the same mistakes, and when they change even the smallest item, they increase their chances of success. I wonder if we see projects make the same mistakes repeatedly.

Remember what Ramsay does? He comes in, he evaluates, he recommends, he changes, he leaves. What if the project management industry did what Ramsay does to restaurants to our projects? How much better off do you think our projects would be? Do you think we would deliver more effectively, have better on-time metrics, and be able to bring our costs down? You are right; if we had experts like Ramsay come in and replicate what he does to our projects, they would be much more successful.

What if we had someone like Dr. Harold Kerzner look at our projects following the same steps Ramsay follows? Dr. Kerzner is the father of project management, an industry expert, leading project management author, and could clearly perform the same steps Ramsay follows but to our projects.

Let’s look at what an expert in the project management industry would look for as part of their evaluation process.

Project Management Evaluation Process

  1. Review the project health data (Is the Project in Red status, is the budget Green, Risks/Issues…etc.)
  2. Review project deliverables (no getting around it, you are going to have to look at the deliverables and the content)
  3. Review project processes (Look for areas going well and areas of improvement, how does the project manage change? What about the budget process?)
  4. Reviews project resources (Look at their qualifications, their background, experiences…etc.)
  5. Talk to customers and team members (how are the relationships, what is the working environment like...etc.)

And the list goes on and on.

Do you think it would be difficult for project managers to accept Dr. Kerzner’s advice if he performed this evaluation process? Do you think we can get project managers to embrace not an audit, but a process like the one described above to change the way they are running projects today? Remember: restaurant owners are asking Ramsay to come in and help them turn around their restaurants, and therefore they are looking for help. I have experienced that most project managers are not open to sharing how they run their projects, which often leads them into trouble because they get stuck in their own ways which sometimes causes problems on their projects.

We should change the project management industry by moving away from project audits and moving towards hiring experts to provide evaluations and recommendations on what they are seeing in failing projects. If we can adopt the ideas and processes that Ramsay has been following with the restaurants into the project management world, we would have a much better chance of our projects being more successful.

What do you think?

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

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Bill Dow, PMP

Bill Dow has been in IT for the last 23 years with 21 of those years focusing on Project Management. He has built 2 Project Management Offices from the ground up using the best practices and core principals of PMI and lead countless projects. He has worked both in Canada and the US and has worked in a variety of industries.

Bill is the co-author of the "Project Management Communication Bible", an
801 page reference manual, published in 2008 for Wiley publishing. This book has been listed in the Top 100 for Project Management books.

His second book, "The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO", takes his personal experience in building and implementing PMO's over a 10 year period and puts it into a format that is easy to read and use for any PMO Manager. 

Bill currently works for Microsoft IT as the Project Management Discipline Owner as well an Adjunct Professor at Bellevue College, Bellevue WA, USA.

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