Kitchens and Communicators: Same Knives

A food critic friend of mine posted this piece from the site Fine Dining Lovers and I thought it was excellent. I also thought that it’s not necessarily only germane to commercial kitchens. I think it’s also quite relevant to practitioners of both the culinary and the communication arts.

Here’s a short version with my take. Read the entire piece at the link above.

INADEQUATE MISE EN PLACE
There is no excuse for this. It does happen and the finger should be pointed at both the individual line cook and the chef. Well-designed prep sheets based on sound projections, a sense of urgency on the part of the line cook, and chef oversight throughout the prep window will all help to rectify this problem.
MRB: Yep. If you don’t have all of your planning done; if you don’t have all the tools you need, the likelihood of  project failure increases exponentially.
LACK OF TRAINING
MRB: Fairly self-evident, this. Always train your staff. And, if you can, always hire smarter than yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTIONS
Cooks depend on their tools working well. Ovens must be calibrated, burners must work well, fryer temperatures must be true, pans must be seasoned …
MRB: I learned this wisdom a long time ago from a boss who always insisted that the communications staff have the latest equipment possible and put the office on a strict replacement schedule. We also all had machines that were the same so that we could all talk to one another whenever we needed to. This is smart stuff — and hard to get past the bean-counters in lean years — but it’s absolutely essential. I swear by it.
Chef-knivesPOOR DOOR MANAGEMENT
Even the best prep and mental preparedness will fail if the front of the house fails to manage and pace the door and door reservations for smooth service.
MRB: Your jobs are not “one-offs.” You have to be cognizant of what else you have on your plate when you assign deadlines and due dates. If you don’t factor in “the other,” you’re always going to be scrambling, always going to be behind and you’ll end up with a poor reputation — and that’s something much harder to fix than learning how to calendarize projects.
LACK OF MENTAL PREPAREDNESS
Cooks need to be in the right mental state to function at peak efficiency. Chefs need to help to manage this.
MRB: Yes, a thousand times, yes! Make sure your staff is operating as best as they can. You can help them by providing them with an invigorating, well-run workplace or simply a shoulder to cry on. Give staff a chance to stretch in their roles and turn mistakes into learning experiences, not opportunities to always rebuke and belittle. Helping them focus will increase creativity across the board.
AN INDEPENDENT APPROACH VS. A TEAM PREPARATION
It is never sufficient to be satisfied that you are ready for the rush if the rest of the team is not. Every cook’s readiness is every cook’s responsibility. Observation and communication will help teams survive and thrive.
MRB: Nothing to add here. Build a team that helps one another thrive.
OVERALL WEAK COMMUNICATION
Constant communication between cooks, between the chef and cooks, between the dining room manager and the chef, and effective dialogue between service staff and cooks will keep everyone on track and will help to minimise the surprises that bring a restaurant down.
MRB: Ditto the above. Always keep talking. Let managers know of potential impending crises and let management assist in easing pressure in certain areas in order to get things done. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone feeling that they can say to their supervisor, “I’m swamped. I have three projects due today and I can’t get them all done,” and having the supervisor answer, “That’s okay. I’ll give one to Mary. Thanks for letting me know.”
AN ILL-CONCEIVED MENU WITHOUT STATION BALANCE
The menu is the key control device in a kitchen. Planning a menu is certainly an art, but it is also a science.
MRB: And ultimately, this is the foundation upon which all of the above is built. If you promise to be all things to all people, you’re not going to make it. Tighten your offerings, limit your services to those that you know your staff are capable of and make sure you can deliver the goods on time and on budget.
It’s not rocket science, but it is good management — and no matter what your industry, good management is good management. 

User Experience Myth Or Truth: The Three-Click Or Tap Rule

User Experience Myth Or Truth: The Three-Click Or Tap Rule.

Just ran across this article again and thought it was worth a re-share. It’s a very good primer on why the three-click rule is mostly bunk.

What the article doesn’t go into is something that can’t be solved here either and that’s the amount of content that so many organizations insist on loading into their websites. It bogs down SEO, it slows down effective IA and it makes effective UX almost nonexistent.

Think about what pages of your website get the least attention. Yes, the LEAST attention. Now, ask why you have them. Is there a reason to keep an enormous section of your site up and running that no one has visited in the last six months?

There you go. Today’s ponderable.

Content Marketing: Everything Old is New Again

Content Marketing. What the hell is that? Well, that’s a 2015 buzzword — “content marketing” — but what it really means is engaging your audience by providing interesting and informative content surrounding your particular core brand/institution/performance piece/school/breed of dog/type of frozen juice/political party. What. Ever.

I’m old enough to have lived through several iterations of this being the hot thing. The problem is, people forget and move on to something different and then a new generation, understanding that something is wrong, discovers content again, has a Eureka! moment, and brings it back into the spotlight.

With the exception of platform, i.e., the web, there’s not a damn bit of this that I wasn’t doing *choke* two decades ago. And for the record, most of my peers thought I was NUTS … until I started getting results that they could only dream of.

Here’s a link to a good short bit on Good Monster about content marketing. All the info is good. Use it.

While I was scrolling through the video embedded in that link, another one caught my eye. It’s below. And it’s just bang on the money. Give that man a gold star.

Now, one last word about content marketing. It is not enough to have good content on your site. You must make it easy to access on your easy-to-navigate website. I don’t need to see a beautiful big picture of a tree; just give me the damn story, well told.

Gannett Latest Media Corp to Split; WaPo Online Readership Up

Gannett has announced that it will split into two separate entities — one focused exclusively on digital and broadcasting and one focusing on print. Gannett is the nation’s largest newspaper publisher. Its portfolio includes flagship USA Today and 81 other papers around the country.

In addition to splitting, it has announced that it will purchase the remaining 73% of Classified Ventures LLC — read: Cars.com — for $1.8 billion dollars cash. Gannett already has a 27% stake in the online venture.

According to a Gannett press release, Gracia Martone, president and CEO, says, “The bold actions we are announcing today are significant next steps in our ongoing initiatives to increase shareholder value by building scale, increasing cash flow, sharpening management focus, and strengthening all of our businesses to compete effectively in today’s increasingly digital landscape. Cars.com doubles our growing digital business, while our recent acquisitions of Belo and London Broadcasting doubled our broadcasting portfolio. These acquisitions, combined with our successful initiatives over the past 2-1/2 years to strengthen our Publishing business, make this the right time for a separation into two market-leading companies.”

Can you read those tea leaves? Read closely in-between the bullshit jargon words. Investing in broadcasting and online media and separating print means that when the shrinking newspaper revenues reach non-profitability — and they are not there, yet — it will be much easier to jettison print without hurting the overall bottom line.

On one hand, it’s another nail in the coffin of print as we know it. On the other, you have to admit, it’s good business. For the shareholders, obviously. And really, who else are they thinking about? The reader? Surely, you jest!

Meanwhile, over at the hallowed halls of The Washington Post Company, July 2014 saw WaPo’s most traffic month ever on washingtonpost.com. Insiders credit new owner Jeff Bezos and commitment to digital as the drivers of the upward trend. The Post has added about 60 staffers on the editorial side this year; most of them on digital, according to reporting at GigaOM.

All this begs the question: just how much time is left on the clock for the printed daily paper?

Oh, God, Not ANOTHER Meeting….

This is a terrific infographic about meetings that I thought I would share. It’s spot-on about what time-wasters meetings can be. While often essential, meetings can be an excuse for social time in the middle of the workday. I would suggest scheduling in social time during the day and eliminate the time-sucking effect of meetings.

This reminds me of a terrific training video I used to great effect back in the 90s. It was called “Meetings, Bloody Meetings” and it was produced by a firm called Video Arts. This company was founded by John Cleese — yes, that one — and he used comedy to great effect to get his point across. He also used some of the top actors in the U.K. during the 70s, 80s and 90s so, instead of the traditional bad acting in these types of films, you had Cleese, Dawn French, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Hugh Bonneville and a whole assortment of “Oh, I know that guy/gal British actors.”

Cleese sold the company a number of years back, but continues to be involved: he even appears in their new, updated version of “Meetings, Bloody Meetings.”

Anyhow, take a look at this and think about how you can streamline your meetings with just a bit of effort. As an added bonus, below I’ve embedded a cut from Cleese’s original MBM video. Enjoy! (H/T Tom Cott and MediaBistro)

The Ugly Truth About Meetings: INFOGRAPHIC – GalleyCat.

The Ugly Truth About Meetings

by dianagosi.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

‘Lion King’ Atop Broadway’s Circle of Life

By 2010 Disney stopped the traditional strategy of charging one price for whole sections of seats; instead, the producers raised prices for busy weeks by making predictions based on “Lion King” data. A new interactive seating map allowed people to pick locations, and they often opted for better, pricier ones, Disney executives said. The introduction of the algorithm, as well as heavy advertising, caused grosses to surge further. This March “The Lion King” has been grossing $1.5 million a week.
Ticket Pricing Puts ‘Lion King’ Atop Broadway’s Circle of Life – NYTimes.com.

This is a great article by Patrick Healey in the Times. What I find so fascinating about this is that most producers aren’t doing what Disney is doing: pricing houses dynamically. Instead, they are relying on old, old models that sell tickets but do nothing to develop their audience.

The idea that charging more in the short term is going to make you more money in the long term is utter folly, but likely is something born of the experience of the old white-haired guys with the money.

Back in the mists of time, before computerized tickets and demographic algorithms, I did this kind of stuff the old timey way: with pencils and big sheets of paper. And maps. It made sense to me then; it makes so much more sense to me now as we have such fabulous technology.

No one else may have the resources that Disney has, but there’s no reason — besides stupidity and the unwillingness to embrace new things — that everyone should not be doing this. Why? Because, if you are a marketer: it’s your job!

Hakuna matata.

How LinkedIn Is Thwarting Your Job Search

How LinkedIn Is Thwarting Your Job Search | Next Avenue.

This is an important article, especially for those who are using LinkedIn as a part of their job search.

It’s also a very important lesson in how too much is really too much, sometimes. It’s also a lesson in how people don’t think through their actions, even when those people are ones that you would think should know better.

It’s called strategic planning and, frankly, not a lot of people are any good at it.

And that, constant reader, is what keeps me in business!

(Listen to Ms. Sapolin — if you’re looking for work, turn those damn annoying notifications off!)