Honest Confession: I hate blogposts which try to connect random things. ‘Leicester winning PL can teach you these 5 things about how to run a startup’. Really though? So with bitter irony, I decided to write this post.
I picked up Kitchen Confidential last year, and TBH it is one of the best books I read last year. I don’t have much interest in cooking. I never wanted to be a Chef. I picked this one up because I had read posts on how well run kitchens are similar to well run startups. And I wanted to know what was the big deal about Anthony Bourdain.
One year later, I am still thinking about this book.
Here is the note I had created while reading the book. It contains similarities I noticed between being a PM and a Chef:
- You constantly have to deal with high pressure situations. TBH I constantly keep thinking that I will mess some some big release and get fired. Thank God it has not happened till now
- In both jobs, over communication is key to avoid fuck ups. See any Gordon Ramsey video and you will see him constantly shouting a others
- In spite of fuckups which will happen eventually, you will have to remain calm. There have been days when I have just wanted to come home early after a bad day, but I remained because there was a deadline we were chasing
- There is daily firefighting, at least in the smaller startups. I remember my CBO, at one of my past companies, mailing me on a Saturday evening at 4PM demanding a RCA on why the conversion dropped between 2-3PM compared to our benchmark. A lot of people quit. High churn. There is a lack of processes in beginning
- But slowly routines become important. Rituals get started
- You always have to be ready with fallbacks/ back up options. Similar to how chefs can fall sick, and decide not to come in the last minute, QAs can fall sick on the day you need to launch, and you might have to jump in and test as a PM. You need a plan B and a plan C. Avoid Bus factor being 1
- There is no age limit. What matters is who you are, and what you bring to the table. Age matters. Experience matters. But what matters the most is getting shit done
- Right tools are important. There is an entire chapter dedicated to that which knifes to use. How to set up a table. Every PM has her favourite tools too
- Getting into a flow state is important. Even when there is too much work, you will feel satisfied if you are in a flow state
- You have to love the journey as much as the end product. There is no other option. There is a Chapter in the book about a Chef called Scott who does what he does for the love of cooking. Not for the accolades. Not for the newspaper mentions. Cooking is all he thinks of. I think for a PM it is similar. When I was younger I really cared about getting called out by my CEO about some feature I shipped. Getting praise from my team about how good I was. But after 6 years in the job, it is all about loving what I do
- Clarity of roles is super Important. Ambiguity cant be tolerated in a high pressure environment. There is a chapter in the roles of a porter, chef, line cook etc and what is expected out of each role. I think is similar in a product development org. Job descriptions need to be clear. Same with ownership
This book turned out to be as good as promised. And it is definitely one of the books I will recommend to aspiring PMs going forward.