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How quiet is your kitchen?

Go to a high end restaurant. Not one of the TV show types where they scream and all the "YES CHEF!" drama takes place, choose a truly classy establishment

Watch the sous chefs in the morning prep and prep and prep at the crack of dawn. Watch how quietly they work.

Then watch (or rather "listen to") the kitchen staff during the dinner service. Fine dining only, not a "busy" restaurant.

You'll notice something unusual: near silence. There's almost no chit-chat. Nearly everyone will be quietly focusing on the work, the craft, their particular role. Note the attention to detail. Cleaning up each station after finishing each part.

Orders need not be yelled into the kitchen by the expeditors. Instead, each order prints out almost silently at the various stations: one by the pizza oven, the main grill or stove area, another by the salad or dessert stations. Everyone knows their role, and knows what they need to do. The timing of when everything comes out has already been selected, and the ratio of waitstaff to guests is so good (thanks to the high prices) that nothing is rushed or behind.

This is only possible through an intense amount of procedural design and operational excellence. Nearly nothing is left to chance. Read about Amazon's meeting style: printed materials that precede each conference. Any information that will be shared will be thoughtfully prepared in advance. The faster readers will be able to take in the information rather than pushing the speaker to "get to the point", and the slower readers can take things in at a pace that's more suitable for them. As a result, the meetings are quieter, simpler, and can focus on actions and decisions instead of explanation.

If your team's "kitchen" makes its decisions in more of a panicking, rushed way, what would need to change so you could have a quieter environment to do your work? Think of stressful jobs: air traffic controller, surgeon, head chef. The really good people at those jobs do their work very quietly. Listen to an air traffic controller "argument" on YouTube: you may not even notice there's a disagreement. Everyone in that industry knows that cooler heads will enable everyone to do their best work, even if they're disagreeing. If your job or work environment feels chaotic, think about what you would need in order to do better work. Quiet is usually the first step. This means deciding how interruptions should or will take place. How will you get important information to a coworker, even if they are standing right next to you. It might be written instead of verbal. The quieter you can collaborate as a team, the better chance you have of enabling each person to achieve higher performance and quality.


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