Archive for the 'Work in general' category

Agile coaching approaches illustrated by Gordon Ramsay

June 10, 2013 9:06 am

My oldest daughter recently introduced me to Gordon Ramsay’s Fox TV show “Kitchen Nightmares”. It was the episode on Amy’s Baking Company, and we sat and watched it together on YouTube. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! The participants in the show engaged in almost nonstop verbal abuse, miscommunication, denial and dysfunction. It was like watching the proverbial train wreck in slow motion. I watched that episode three times. To use Gordon Ramsay’s favorite word: “Wow!”.

GordonRamsay

After a week or so of not thinking about it further, I started wondering if Ramsay ever visits a restaurant where the food is not horrid. I found that Hulu offers the show for watching on demand, and I watched two handfuls, or so, of shows. Apart from the entertainment value (the Anna Karenina principle), I started becoming interested in Gordon Ramsay’s approach for helping his show participants. Like others who have written about this, I’ve noticed some patterns and principles. Here’s my take on the show, viewed from an Agile coaching perspective:

Listen and gather information

Ramsay’s first step is to gather information. He meets the people involved in running the restaurant, talking to owners and staff to find out what they think is causing the restaurant’s problems. Most of the time he talks to everyone in private to make sure he hears unfiltered and uninhibited views.

Go see

As a second step Chef Ramsay focuses on tasting the food, usually at lunchtime. He also takes a look at the dining area’s décor, the number and kinds of items on the menu, cleanliness, POS systems, etc. This starts filling in more of the picture that he needs to start helping. Finally, he’ll observe how the kitchen functions during the busiest time of day, the dinner service. Usually this is also where he takes a look at the ingredients used, their freshness, the kitchen equipment, the cleanliness of the environment, how the people communicate and interact, and what the mood is like when things get busy and chaotic.

Hold up a mirror

It is usually during dinner service that Ramsay starts holding up a mirror for the owners and staff. His style is incredibly direct and, really, brutal. He doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t hold back. Profanities fly. He confronts people with ruthless injection of reality showing them how far away from excellent practices the restaurant is. This is usually close to the point where people reach “rock bottom”. They realize that they need to change, badly.

Ask for commitment

At this point Ramsay is still not convinced that he wants to help. He has a calmer conversation where he tries to gauge whether there is a willingness to commit to change. Usually his coachees end up expressing a commitment. Sometimes the expression is vague, but Ramsay picks up on it and is willing to go with it.

Inject energy

Chef Ramsay’s next step is usually to transform the restaurant physically. Some places haven’t had their interior refreshed in five to ten years. Ramsay injects new energy into both the environment and the people. He simplifies the menu and presents the actual dishes for test-tasting and to show the crew what is possible when you focus on quality and freshness. But it doesn’t stop there.

Teach and mentor

Next comes the preparation for the re-launch. This is usually where he teaches people. Sometimes it’s about the cooking and kitchen operations, sometimes about team organization, better communication, and getting owners to fully embrace the roles they need to play. Sometimes he’ll bring in other successful, experienced professionals to mentor and guide his protégés.

Stand with the team

All during the re-launch, Ramsay stays with the restaurant crew. He keeps holding up the mirror, providing observations and feedback, still brutally honest and direct. He also acknowledges when things work well, praising individuals for jobs well done.

Reflect and offer feedback

Finally, after the dinner re-launch is over, Chef Ramsay (as he is now universally called by the team) calls everyone together to briefly reflect on what happened and how. Due to his participation and in-the-moment steering, most re-launch nights are quite successful, possibly dotted with a few hiccups. Ramsay reminds the people who need change the most to make sure they don’t revert to old, more comfortable habits.

 

Agile approaches

If you look back over the subheadings above, you’ll see a lot of similarities between Gordon Ramsay’s coaching approach and Agile coaching approaches (as, for example in Lyssa Adkins’ book “Coaching Agile Teams”). Of course, as an Agile coach you wouldn’t want to use Ramsay’s brutal tone, volume and body language. The show wouldn’t have half the entertainment value without them, but outside of a TV show a calmer approach is more effective.

Apart from the above similarities, you’ll discover that Ramsay ultimately is all about what Christopher Avery calls the Responsibility Process. Ramsay manages to help people discover that they must overcome denial, blaming, justification, shame and obligation to ultimately take responsibility for the business they are running. They need to own setting the tone, making the rules, ensuring that they’re followed, setting quality and communication standards, etc. Of course, in an Agile context this becomes the job of the Agile team, not the manager, scrum master or any other single person. But just like in Kitchen Nightmares, sometimes teams need an Agile coach to help them with situations they’re grappling with and aren’t sure how to overcome. An Agile coach helps such teams help themselves with techniques very similar to the ones Gordon Ramsay models on his show.

Why are you not a member of the ACCU?

August 6, 2009 9:36 am

ACCU Home page

You may never have heard of ACCU, the Association of C and C++ Users as it was originally called. It is a volunteer organization, consisting of programmers who care about programming. The ACCU publishes two magazines, both devoted to raising the standards of programming everywhere: C Vu and Overload. On top of that they organize a conference every year, where some of the top names in C/C++ programming (and many other software development fields) come to speak and mingle with programmers from all around the globe.

I was introduced to the ACCU several years ago, when I first came to Silicon Valley, and still renew my membership every year, even though I don’t attend the local ACCU-USA events anymore. Yes, there is a local “chapter” of the ACCU in Silicon Valley, and they have monthly events that you can attend for free. I had the good fortune of hearing Bjarne Stroustrup speak once (plus going to dinner with him and the rest of the attendees afterwards, and even getting to exchange a few words with him in private.)

C Vu Volume 21 Issue 3 Cover     image

At one time I also co-hosted an event for the ACCU, and I think it is this personal connection that has kept me going as a member, even though I’ve not been much directly involved since. What keeps me hanging on now are the two excellent journals, which are largely ad-free and contain almost nothing but passionately written articles and code samples, demonstrating how to become a better programmer.

If this is something you strive for, I highly recommend checking out the ACCU and encourage you to become a member. Even if you live in the United States or elsewhere outside the UK.

HP TouchSmart application development guidelines: download them now

October 29, 2008 12:15 am

I just noticed that the development guidelines for how to write an application that works with the HP TouchSmart software has been made available for download.

Go get it at http://www.touchsmartcommunity.com/download/60/HP-TouchSmart-Software-Developer-Guidelines/

There’s a license agreement you need to read and agree to before you download. Please read it carefully.

The document is not what I would call a “proper” SDK, since there are no “header files” or anything of that kind. The nice thing is that our “interface” is at the hWnd level, so pretty much any way you want to write a touch-optimized windows app should be able to work in the HP TouchSmart environment.

One more thing: you need to also download the update to the HP TouchSmart software itself, otherwise you won’t have the ability to “register” your application with the TouchSmart UI. That update is available here: http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/softwareDownloadIndex?softwareitem=pv-66420-1&lc=en&dlc=en&cc=us&product=3752240&os=2100&lang=en

[Edit 2008-11-20: The update was taken down for a while, for fixing an issue that was found after initial release. This is the new link.]

[Edit 2008-12-07: Looks like the link moved once more. Hope it stays for a while now. The SP number is sp40894]

So there you go, have fun writing some apps, and show them off through the community site. No need to wait for Windows 7…

Walt Mossberg heaps praises on the HP TouchSmart PC – or maybe not…

July 1, 2008 10:37 pm

Here’s the summarizing headline/link:

The TouchSmart Has Improved–But Not Enough

I’m surprised at how relatively positive the article is. Thanks Mr. Mossberg!