Beyond Execution

Making a difference in project management by training, speaking and writing


Dinner: Impossible

Posted by beyondexecution on October 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM

My wife was amazed that I was watching a cooking show with a great amount of interest. You see, my wife loves cooking, and she has absolutely no interest in project management. I, on the other hand, only like the results of cooking, and am a fanatic about project management.


So I stumbled across this show, which on the Food Network in Canada and the U.S. And what I have found is a cooking show that epitomizes project management.


The concept of the show is modeled like Mission Impossible - a seemingly difficult to near impossible task is given with a deadline. Since it's a cooking show, the objective is usually to cook a meal for a large group of people, usually in the 100+ range.


Here's the project management aspects: the chef is given an immovable schedule constraint, and he may have additional constraints imposed. He has limited resources, both physical and human. He is provided with people who do not have the skills, and may also require a high degree of motivation. He may have a sponsor who is eager to change or add objectives. He has to plan what the end product will be. He has to use Subject Matter Experts. There is scrap and rework incurred as a result of poor quality. Although he rarely uses it, there are moments in which he's raised change requests. And above all he has to provide a high degree of leadership and direction. And it's all included in the 40 minute show (not including ads).


Some crazy constraints that have been imposed:

  • can only cook outdoors using camping cooking equipment while raining, to deliver a $15,000 a plate fund raiser dinner
  • having a mall security guard added as a team member
  • making do with supermarket food as opposed to restaurant-quality food
  • limiting the cooking methods that can be used in the final product

At least cost is not a constraint, although given his limitations, having an unlimited budget doesn't help that much, as you would see from the show.


Believe it or not, sometimes he fails the objectives (I thought that was not allowed in reality shows!), which he bases on the original constraints and objectives. But he always succeeds in creating a great meal for the end users, so his customer satisfaction scores are always high. And isn't that what it's all about?

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