Cooks and Chefs

All businesses have cooks and chefs. Understanding the difference is important because it helps explain the quality of the customer experience. We’ve all heard the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen,” but what about “we’ve got too many chefs, ”there are not enough cooks to make this,” or “where is the chef?!” Any employee for a large organization will find these questions all too familiar.

Consider the following: cooks know how to do stuff, how to follow instructions, and how to execute; chefs know how to create and strategize. The cook makes the meal. The chef makes the menu. The cook knows all of the techniques, how to follow the recipes, and is a master at executing their trade. The chef creates the techniques, creates the recipes, and is a master at strategizing how the various trades fit together.

There are times when we have to be a good cook – we assemble the required parts and get the thing made to spec. Good cooks are efficient and make sure the product ships on time. There are also times when we have to be a good chef – dreaming up the menu, determining how to stock inventory, forecast demand, and most importantly, plan the customer experience. It helps to know which job we are doing at any given time.

Working for a larger organization, we can still find ourselves with both titles, we just have to know when we can create versus when we are expected to follow. Working for a smaller organization, it’s not uncommon to carry both titles all of the time. We create and execute because there is no one else. The point of value creation is still the same, however – the customer experience rules them all.

Without the customer, there is no business. That’s why the experience matters so much. The experience is a vision of what people will leave remembering. A large firm may set a standard that a local team ultimately organizes an independent menu to deliver, but the goal must remain the quality of the experience. Most large organizations give their local teams the basics to do their business, but those are no different than the plates, tables and basic ingredients anyone would require to serve a meal. That means no matter the size of our organizations, we still need our own roles and responsibilities to deliver our experience. 

As cooks, we want to work for chefs who can clearly articulate their vision. As chefs, we want to take ownership of that vision and what it can mean to deliver it for everyone involved. There’s no reason to make the experience anything less than great. With proper intent, we can do just that.

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