A simplified workplace image

My Kitchen Rules

September 14, 2021

A workplace is a lot like a kitchen. Yes, I know that a kitchen is also technically a workplace as well but hear me out.

Let’s start with the basic rules for a recipe. They are like work instructions. Well, technically they are exactly work instructions for cooks but hear me out.

When you open a recipe book you have your ingredients, which are basically your inputs. Then you have the steps, which is the approach for processing the inputs. You also have support processes—like quality standards—that are applied at the cook’s discretion. For example, I prefer my bacon to be crispy but another cook might like it soft.

Of course, the final output—the bacon itself—is delivered to the customer for their satisfaction. There you go. Now armed with that analogy, you are ready to improve your workplace!

No? I guess the advice is a bit undercooked (buckle up for plenty of cooking puns).

As part of Project Simplify, we have developed recipe book that helps deliver precise interventions to simplify complexity but there are also governing Kitchen Rules that apply as well.

These rules are a set of principles that relate to the effective implementation of any simplification—they apply to any and all of the recipes. Here are our eight kitchen rules for simplification.

The 8 Kitchen Rules for Workplace Simplification

  1. Get hungry

    One way to get hungry is to place the food under the nose of prospective change agents. That is, get them interested by showing them a workplace solution that is simple in contrast to the complex beast it once was. This concept can help provide a vision and appetite for change.

  2. A chef is only as good as their team

    It’s important to engage others and allow them to participate in simplification. Untangling complexity is often desirable but difficult and only a team will be able to push through the change. After all, that’s why the Chef have their Sous Chefs and wait staff. To do this, get your team involved and committed to the cause from the start. Individuals are more supportive of change where they feel connected to it and can own it.

  3. Not everyone is going to enjoy your cooking

    Check out the online reviews of the best restaurants. There’s always a few people who absolutely hate the cooking and experience. Don’t react to the resistance before understanding why it exists. Then try to address the concerns. It is important to get as many people onside with the change as you can, removing obstacles as their emerge is important. But ultimately, recognise that even the best ideas have naysayers and solutions are never fit for purpose for 100% of the population.

  4. Give your restaurant a catchy name and purpose

    When you try to recall a great restaurant it could be the name or even just a descriptor like ‘that Italian place’. Either way, the restaurant has to have a clear identity and vision. If it’s just a restaurant that serves anything, it becomes nothing. Similarly, you need to have clearly articulated the vision for simplification to be successful, for example, taking time at a morning check-in to outline how the simplification will look, and allow time for questions. If employees don’t know what they’re working towards or can’t see the vision, research suggests that their job satisfaction during the change process can suffer as a result (Appelbaum, Habashy, Malo, & Shafiq, 2012).

  5. Let everyone see the new menu

    Shaking up the menu? That’s something that impacts the entire restaurant. The waiters will need to understand what they are describing. The sous chefs need to know what to prep. The person ordering the food needs to know what they’re eating. Everybody who is affected by the change needs to understand why it’s occurring, and what the changes will look like for them. Clear and transparent communication is vital when making changes. Research has found that individuals with an awareness of the consequences and implications of an innovation or change are more likely to accept and facilitate it (Appelbaum, Habashy, Malo, & Shafiq, 2012). Communication can break down barriers to innovation and changes caused by fear or lack of knowledge.

  6. Show them how it’s done

    It isn’t enough to show people the menu. When the changes require effort, memory, new skills and knowledge, employees may also need to some instructions and training. Role-modelling and enacting the shift toward simplification shows the team what it looks like to follow the recipe, and gives them ideas for how they can go about facilitating the change themselves.

  7. Prep your ingredients

    You can’t rush into any of these recipes without the requisite ingredients, ensure that these are ready to go before starting your intervention. As well as preparing your ingredients, you need to flesh out an appropriate plan for implementing the change that considers contingencies, this will improve the likelihood of success.

  8. Don’t over-season

    Employees will respond better to the intervention, and be more likely to become committed to the change if they are afforded some autonomy and freedom – you shouldn’t be micro-managing your employees through the change. Afforded flexibility and self-direction, your employees may even come up with better ideas as to how you can implement the intervention. In short, don’t over-complicate things.

How can the rules help?

These rules are actually evidenced-based, taken from research related to managing change in a business context.

Check out our Simplify Recipes and keep these rules in mind when you implement your changes. Check the app


Appelbaum, S.H.,Habashy, S., Malo, J., & Shafiq, H. (2012). Back to the future: revisiting Kotter’s 1996 change model. Journal of Management Development, 31(8), 764-782.

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