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Chef Gordon Ramsay: organizational psychologist

On September 6th covering , ,

Here I confess one of my junk-food type indulgences. I’ve enjoyed the “reality” show featuring Chef Gordon Ramsay. Not the silly competition one — the one where he visits a restaurant in trouble and turns it around.

Never mind the foul-mouthed tough-guy persona. I’m impressed with how the show presents a case study in consultation. In each episode, the case is presented of a foundering restaurant. The consultant comes in and makes a rapid assessment. There is a tense meeting where he presents his diagnosis and treatment plan. He encounters resistance and overcomes it, and there is a happy ending (usually).

I’m impressed with the way Ramsay diagnoses psychological problems in the team: a weak leader, schisms and splits, problems with accountability (confronting poor–performing workers) authority, failures to address conflict.

The treatment plan includes practical things like revamping the menu and usually an overhaul of the kitchen. Ramsay’s operational savvy and keen business sense comes to the fore in these areas.

But the core of the treatment is usually psychological. He confronts the owner with the need to commit to making a go if it and doing what needs to be done. He seems to give problem employees one or two good chances to shape up, then he prescribes the old heave-ho. Always there is a major intervention aimed at the morale of the team — or actually, every intervention is pegged to morale and team cohesion in some way. In one episode, a weak leader was given a coaching session in the boxing ring, talking about his problems standing up tp his father.

Most importantly — he leaves at the end. Consultations have an end point.

People accept his tough and sometimes sadistic confrontation because he has the credibility. They believe they can help him. He is very smart, though I think the producers whisper in his ear to provide a satisfying ritual humiliation in each episode. It is TV, after all. It’s probably in his contract. But he gets away with it because he is generally right.

If we take away the need for the consultant (Ramsay) to be the star of the show and a big badass — this is a great show about organizational consultation. A good thing to watch and think about what a Chef Ramsay would do with your kitchen — whether your kitchen is a music ensemble or a startup.

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