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What's Cooking in Business?

Mise en place is a French term for a cooking preparation technique. It translates to "everything in its place".

What does a culinary phrase used in professional kitchens have to do with business? It's all about how careful preparation leads to greater efficiency and better outcomes, and every business can benefit from maximizing that.

I was introducing myself at a recent networking event and I made a comment about separating two types of work that I do: short-term strategic process improvement projects and longer leadership coaching engagements. As I was talking, I referred to having tried to mash things together in the past, which resulted in making something like mashed potatoes. People had a hard time understanding that I do both types of work because I wasn't differentiating them clearly. I threw it all into one dish and the outcome was bland and undefined.

Later that night I was thinking about what I had said, and the comments I received afterwards that it sounded much better presented as two services rather than one. The thought popped into my head of how a Thanksgiving feast is planned with many sides and a beautiful presentation. Then the following day you might take leftovers and make a casserole out of them, mashing all of the ingredients into one mediocre dish. The term "mise en place" came to mind and I started to think about how businesses may have a menu of services, but if not prepared and presented well they turn out more like that mediocre casserole than the 5-star dinner.

Carefully laying out the components before beginning to work on something easily translates from kitchen prep to a general business methodology. It also relates to how we present what we do, and whether our menu of services come out sounding like an entrée and sides, or a casserole. If you're getting lukewarm results in your business you may benefit from a strategic review to ensure that your hungry customers understand what's on the menu. And while you're at it, consider other process improvements to your workflow that may result in serving up a better product or service in the end too.


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