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What went wrong? I didn’t follow the recipe.

I must admit that I have failed. I didn’t follow the recipe. My delicious breakfast bread didn’t turn out as well as I had imagined. It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t as perfect as I had hoped either.

What went wrong, I thought as I evaluated my backside between bites? Well, I found out that I hadn’t followed the recipe and made sure it was a good result, before I started making my own sprouts.

I had received a recipe from my brother for a bread that would be very good. It looked perfect for me; dark, rough, and with a lot of seeds in it. Said and done, I stood and baked. But…then I thought about it a bit. Maybe I should add raisins, and maybe I should add… Well, it was a departure à la Matt’s. My brother had followed the recipe and succeeded perfectly, but I was about to start banging on about it.

What does this have to do with operations and improvement work? Have I changed my focus to competing with Ernst? No, you can rest easy. So here’s what I think; what is a process if not a recipe for how we create value in our business?

We have something that wants something – say my son is the one who wants the good bread. Someone takes on the task of creating what the first person wants – I take on the task of baking the bread. The steps that we need to perform to get a good result and also to be able to repeat what we do, over and over again, that’s our process – the recipe that I need to follow.

It is in the design of the process that we ensure that we maintain high quality, that we have the tools we need, that we have good governing and supporting documents, and other support that ensures that we minimise staff dependency and increase the joy of working. It is the process that allows us to “relax” and follow the workflow we have decided to have. We can measure and follow up, thus improving quality as we go along.

The process is like the recipe, and then some.

It’s only when you follow the recipes, once, twice, that you can start tinkering and building it out. Improve it. “Raisins in the bread, what a great idea Matts!”, but how does that affect the rest of the recipe? It is only when we know WHAT and HOW to do something that we can start to change it. Without having measured the result – having tasted the bread after a few bakes – we can judge that there is a need for improvement, or perhaps improvisation.

After all, it’s the talented chefs and bakers who can take, or shy away from, the turns. Because they know what they are doing. The rest of us who are quite new to this baking, we will have to stick to the recipe if we want to get the result that the recipe promises. Then, with more knowledge and experience, we can build on it and adapt it.

I hear many times that “we have to cut the curves” but then without knowing which curves there are and which ones to cut. You can’t embarrass them if you don’t know about them. You can’t.

So this week’s tip is to design your processes first, then measure and follow up. Only then can you start “poking at them” and try how they get even better. Then you won’t get the equivalent of my overly sticky bread, but instead get it just the way you want it.

How does it look in your business, do you follow the recipe (processes) or do you mix and match a bit on your own?

Good luck with the baking…sorry, business development.