What the Anal Retentive Chef Can Teach Us About Strategy

When I was in the middle of Christmas decorating disorientation, an old Saturday Night Live sketch, “Cooking with the Anal Retentive Chef,” came to mind.

The late Phil Hartman plays Gene, the titular chef, who announces his intention to make pepper steak and in less than four minutes he has, instead, pointed out that the flavor from green peppers comes not from the cooking of them but how evenly diced they are, demonstrated the proper way to dispose of unwanted (unevenly chopped) peppers (two sheets of paper towels, still joined, folded over the offending peppers, wrapped in aluminum foil folded with equal care, carefully placed in a brown paper sandwich bag which, if torn, is carefully taped and then pleated and taped to cover the unnerving tear), given a thorough lecture on how to hand sew a tape dispenser cozy and, addressed the proper way to clean a kitchen surface.

Chef Gene’s lack of focus popped into my head as my home looked like an explosion at Santa Land and I found myself, instead of hanging ornaments or fussing with garland, putting new shoelaces in my workout skips.

There is, absolutely, a logical thread that connects one to the other but I am not ready to be that transparent and, who has the time? What I can say is that I, like Chef Gene, was not focused on what I was trying to accomplish.

What are you trying to accomplish? In your organization, as in the rest of your life, having a clear grasp on that is the first step in creating a rock solid strategic plan to get you from here to there without losing focus. However, getting to a well-stated goal can be a trial for some of us. A few tips for the focus challenged:

  • Think in terms of the end result you are seeking, not the process.
  • Make it measureable. A not-so-measureable objective could be, “Increase consideration of our product or service.” More measureable – “Increase by 10 percent the purchase of our Frosted Chocolate Sugar Bombs by DINK households in the southeast territory within one year.” Or, “Hold opposition by representatives to our position on state regulation of wearing berets to less than five percent in the coming legislative session.”
  • Know what success looks like. When you include an audience (who), outcome (what), attainment level (how much) and time frame (by when), you and everybody else will be able to tell if you accomplished it.

Thinking through what you want to accomplish and maintaining your focus on it is key to workplace happiness. Everyday we work with organizations that would like help with some communication tool – social media, a printed piece, media relations, website design or campaign but, are not always clear what, exactly, they want to accomplish; what, when all is said and done, success looks like. Start with a measurable objective and you, too, will get to taste that pepper steak.