A Plate of Food which consists of a pork chop, rice, and a baked potato

"If you want food that melts in your mouth, eat it right out of the freezer."

-Paul Harlan Collins

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Communicate, Communicate,Communicate

(For large scale reinventions, this is one of the most important cooking tips.)

Most of us think a restaurant's success depends on its food. That is probably partially true. But, restaurants in general spend a lot of time and energy communicating. As you walk into many restaurants, you'll see the specials of the day posted. As you are seated, you will be handed a menu that tells you what they serve and the prices. You'll be approached by someone asking if you want drinks. Your waiter will repeat the specials. The goal is to make sure you know what they have to offer and that they are interested in your business. McDonald's and Burger King pay significantly more attention to communicating. Almost everything is designed to send some type of message. In a fast food restaurant, where profits depend on quick turnover, even restaurant color choices are often tailored to communicate a message-such as "eat and go!"

Communicating effectively and often is an essential ingredient to reinvention success. By definition, the reinventing organization is doing something-perhaps many things-differently. Major organizational, cultural, and system changes de-stabilize the work environment, and may create discomfort, apprehension, and unrest. How can the workforce move in unison, in the same direction, at the same time, if it doesn't know what it is supposed to do, or why it is supposed to do it, or what "reinventing" looks like? Government reinvention chefs are seldom taught how much, or how intense, the communication efforts must be to lead the organization through the change period.

This is a tough job! We have used every communication tool we could find. We have convened information sessions for all 600+ employees; e-mailed messages to the entire workforce; and cascaded information through supervisors. We created an intranet site with every key piece of information on it. We started an employee newspaper. We post information on every conceivable open space. We established a full-time communications officer. We find that we still are not communicating enough. When an organization is going through major change, no communication effort can be too much.

Another leader of a successful large organizational turnaround once told us, "We met and met and met. We did every conceivable thing we could do to increase organizational communications. After we completed our turnaround two years later, the only regret we had was that we hadn't communicated even more." That says it all!

"Don't open a shop unless you know how to smile."

-Jewish Proverb

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Communication Omelet:
(Learning to Cook Healthy)

Most of us learned to cook from our mothers or grandmothers. We seasoned with fat. We fried everything. Beef was not purchased if it was not sufficiently marbled. The secret ingredient in your prize-winning cake was a tablespoon of butter. Then the cooking world was turned upside down. Fat was not good for you. Who did you turn to for help? How did you learn to cook healthy? You could not turn to your grandmother because she shared your plight. You had to learn to cook all over again.

An organization in change shares your plight. A traditional bureaucratic government organization cannot change without learning to cook all over again. A chef wanting to learn to cook healthy goes to a dietitian or cooking school specializing in fat free cooking. An organization wanting to change must first decide what it wants to be. They ask organizations with similar missions about available training. Successful change cannot be accomplished without training.

Communication Omelet:
2 eggs or 1 small carton of "Eggbeaters"
pinch of salt
black pepper to taste
pat of butter or spray of "Pam"
ham, cheese, tomato, onions, sausage, bell pepper, etc.

Combine eggs, salt, fresh ground pepper in a mixing bowl. Add half an eggshell of milk (about 1 tablespoon if you don't have an eggshell). The reinvention chef is innovative when communicating with employees.

Melt the butter in a medium hot skillet or omelet pan. Whip the egg mixture vigorously and pour into the skillet. Watch the omelet.

The omelet will start to bubble and rise from the pan in several places. The organization will communicate to the chef how well it is handling the transition (into the frying pan). Immediately pop the bubbles with a fork and shake the pan to redistribute the omelet. Reinvention chefs must see, hear, and respond quickly to the communications that bubble up from the organization. Listen to the sizzle. Successful communication is a 360-degree process.

After a minute or two, the omelet will stop bubbling. When the top begins to skim over, add your favorite ingredients along the center of the omelet. The reinvention chef customizes the communication menu for the particular organization or situation.

Fold the omelet from each side to the middle. Cook for another one to two minutes. Turn out onto a warm plate and serve to your guests. Now your communication has moved to another level. You will get customer feedback, which in turn, may refine or modify your recipe. And, the communications process starts over again.

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Cooking at home

Many reinvention restaurants spend lots of money on consultants and experts to help them change. The problem is the expert or consultant tries to apply their highly specialized knowledge to your unique business. Do you want a fast food expert telling you what wines to stock in your wine cellar? The price you pay is the cost of their contract and the chance the changes won't produce the success you wanted. In addition, there may be a lot of workforce resentment caused by the perception that outsiders, who don't care about the traditions of the restaurant, are forcing changes.

A very effective alternative (and we believe the best approach) is to send your staff out to benchmark companies that are the best in the area where you are trying to change. You will be amazed how quickly your staff learns everything your organization needs to know and when they apply the change, it fits your restaurant perfectly. Why? Because it is their business too. Best yet, the cost often is less than you would pay for a consultant and your staff buys into the change. Plus, everyone has a tremendous amount of fun and excitement in the process! Wow! (Editor's note-you don't even have to send a chef with the staff. In fact, it works better if you don't!)

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Fat free Yogurt
(Requires a gas oven)

A Jalapeno Pepper 1 quart of fat free milk
Dollop of cultured yogurt (Yogurt that still has an active culture)
1/2 pint frozen fruit of choice
  1. Heat milk on stove to temperature short of boiling. Creating change often requires a "burning platform." Simply, the burning platform is the reason everyone agrees the organization must change. In today's competitive environment, the burning platform is often the possible loss of jobs or organizational survival.
  2. Remove milk from stove and allow to cool to warm-to-the-touch temperature.
  3. Add a spoonful of cultured yogurt. Adding a change agent or creating an environment supportive of different views and ideas is essential to getting a different organization. You get results if you introduce innovative ideas, new perspectives, and different attitudes.
  4. Place warm milk into the gas oven, and leave in place eight hours. Change is progressive and slow. In a large organization, it will not take place overnight.
  5. Remove yogurt from oven. Wow! Transformation happens from within. No amount of directing people to be different is going to produce meaningful change. The change occurs because the conditions, processes, incentives, and system have taken away the positive reinforcements for being the "old" way, and reinforce the "new" way.
  6. Add thawed fruit to yogurt. Diversity adds value and richness.

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Cooking for your Reinvention Party
(or one dish vs. the whole enchilada)

If you are planning a big Reinvention Party, then how you go about it makes a lot of difference! Many wanna-be reinvention cooks prepare their reinvention dishes one at a time. Their idea is to get each dish going and done right before moving on to the next dish. Then they plan to do the next and, after that is completed, move on to the next. You wouldn't try to cook for a Thanksgiving meal this way. It would take too long and probably wouldn't turn out well. One dish would be cold by the time you were halfway through the next.

The case for starting the major reinvention dishes almost at the same time is that it is highly effective, it's quick, and it produces results.

Think of it this way. Companies in the private sector that find themselves in serious trouble often are dealing in an environment where they are losing markets, working with increasingly reduced revenues, losing employees, and must somehow improve their product to be better than the competition's if they want to survive. How logical do you think it seems to them to do each major change one at a time? Is the government different from business?

Think of how you would do the job if you were tasked to start up a major new federal program. Would you build your procurement office, then your budget office, then your program office, or would you start all the development processes at the same time? Probably the latter.

So why would you reinvent one thing at a time if you want to achieve big results? Starting everything close together may look like chaos, and it may put stress on the organization, but you'll get through the stressful part faster and the organization will discover it can handle much more than it thought.

"The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker; an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb, and an impeccable sense of balance."

-Bryan Miller,
"What Makes a Great Cook Great?"

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The Whole Enchilada

Fry 1 dozen corn tortillas in vegetable oil. Tortilla should be soft, not crispy. Make them crispy and soon you will have chicken tacos.

Boil 4 chicken breasts until meat is tender Cool and debone the chicken and cut into small pieces

Dice 1 medium onion

Shred one pound of cheddar cheese

Stuffing Mix:
Mix chicken, onion, and half of the shredded cheese. Add one 8-ounce container of sour cream to this mix.

Pour one can of red enchilada sauce into a bowl. Dip prepared corn tortillas in enchilada sauce. Stuff and roll each tortilla with the mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all stuffed and rolled tortillas in a casserole dish.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the stuffed tortillas.

Cover tortillas with the other half of the shredded cheddar cheese.

Cover dish with aluminum foil. Place covered dish in oven for 45 minutes.

Remove aluminum foil and bake uncovered another 5 minutes.

"Dieting: waiting for you hips to come in."

-Paul Harlan Collins

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"The Secret is in the Roux"

A Bunch of Jalapeno Peppers When asked, any good Cajun cook will tell you the secret to good gumbo, and other popular Cajun dishes, is in the roux (pronounced roo). What is a roux? Essentially, it is flour cooked in oil. Doesn't sound too special, but it is indeed critical. The roux affects the color, flavor, texture, and consistency of the gumbo. But once it is combined with the other ingredients, it becomes invisible. Few, if any, ingredients have more impact on Cajun dishes than the roux.

To make a good roux for gumbo, a variety of factors must come together at the right time, in the correct amounts, and at the proper temperature. Special care must be taken to continually stir the roux. Even the skillet used to cook the roux has an effect on the final outcome. Sometimes, those unfamiliar with the nuances associated with roux preparation will ask, "Why are you burning that flour?" That is one of the secrets to a good roux. It looks burned, but it isn't. If it were indeed burnt, the burnt flavor would permeate the entire dish.

So, what is the recipe for an organizational transformation roux? Mix equal parts leaders and commitment, blend well, and add to the organization.

The number of leaders you use will depend on the number you have available, and the size and type of organization. Good leaders are sometimes hard to find, and sometimes are confused for managers. The most successful roux will consist of leaders from all levels of the organization and the union. The partnering of leaders from both management and the union will guarantee a successful transformation. The type leader needed for this recipe has the following characteristics:

  • A passion for change;
  • Boundless energy;
  • Recognition of the need to hire people to complement the leaders' strengths and supplement weaknesses;
  • A vision (All leaders used in the roux must share the same vision, or the roux may separate and all consistency will be lost);
  • Seldom if ever takes no for an answer, but knows when to pick the battles;
  • A free thinker with a strategic view;
  • Values risk taking, and chastises those who "opt for the status quo;"
  • Encourages and rewards creativity, even if they don't personally like the concept;
  • Abhors red-tape, always asks "why?" Can leap bureaucrats in a single bound;
  • Tells people "what and why," not "how;"
  • Never stops initiating change;
  • Always thinking of the "big picture;"
  • Encourages teams - hates the word "I;"
  • Keeps commitments, or has an assistant to ensure (s)he keeps commitments;
  • Constantly communicates their vision;
  • Dedicates resources necessary to achieve goals;
  • Puts organizational success above personal agenda; and,
  • Never, never, never, never gives up!
  • Note: Managers may be leaders, but care must be taken to ensure they have the preceding characteristics, or the entire transformation will be ruined.

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Quality dishes

Commitment to a quality dish is every chef's goal. For many of us, that means talking up quality and putting time into making our dish. For others, putting time into quality has meant giving only the time and commitment that produces the visual image of a gourmet meal, but really amounts to a TV dinner.

One way to a quality dish is to shoot for ISO 9000, a standard so tough it requires third party registration at the end. And audits every six months to maintain the registration. Speaking from experience, there is a world of difference between TQM-the talk-and ISO 9000 that requires genuine ongoing, unfailing commitment.

Did you know 25,000 U.S. companies, such as Texas Instruments, Motorola, and NCR, have ISO 9000 facilities? Did you know fewer than a dozen government operations have obtained this coveted quality sign?

Try this dish. Your customers will love it!

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Beer Battered Reinvention Fillets

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 can of beer
1 teaspoon salt
3 pounds catfish fillets
1 stiff egg white

Place flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the whole egg and enough beer to make a medium batter. Cover the bowl and set aside for 1 hour.

Preheat your oil to deep fry temperature.
Dry the catfish fillets with a paper towel.
Gently fold the beaten egg white into the batter mixture.
Dip fillets in the beer batter and place in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown.

This recipe turns the lowly catfish into a culinary delight. The catfish started out as an object of derision. With a few changes, our catfish becomes something to brag about. The same is true for our government reinvention.

"Creativity: Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it."

-Jasper Jones

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Chaos and Risk-taking in the Kitchen

By nature, most of us prefer our lives and workplaces to be orderly. Throughout our career, chaos, disorder, and confusion have been attributed to poor management or employee unrest. Sure signs that things are not going right.

If you have a successful restaurant that is filled each evening, you better expect some chaos, disorder, and confusion in your kitchen.

Reinvention is not a calm affair. Change is unsettling. It is disruptive to the normal processes. By definition, reinvention means doing something different or, stated another way, doing something you have not done before. Run enough change initiatives, and you are almost certain to see what appears to be chaos. Confusion? Absolutely guaranteed. Unrest? You betcha! But, whereas in the past, you might have considered this to be bad news, now just treat it as expected news.

At the signs of confusion, disorder or employee unrest, the first impulse is to step back and stop the change. Resist it! Instead, you might consider slowing down while still continuing to move forward. Be vigilant and increase the communications among the master chefs and the workforce. Encourage employee feedback as to how the change impacts might be lessened. Conduct listening sessions. Address the impacts of the changes. But, continue to push the reinventions forward. Going backwards will produce the result of reducing the confusion and chaos, and is a positive reward for those who resist the change. Stop your reinvention effort, and you provide the formula for slowing and stopping future reinvention efforts. There may be times when there are genuine reasons for pulling back from a change, but these are fewer than most people realize.

If you surround yourself with good master chefs and are working a partnership with your union and workforce, you'll find your team can manage its way through the rough spots. Every time you do so successfully, you and the workforce will have a better feel about how to handle the next round of changes. The process gets easier, even if the changes get progressively larger. Success breeds success!

Good luck in that chaotic kitchen!

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."

-Beverly Sills

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Change Passion Sauce
(A hand crafted meat sauce from the FAALC kitchen)

A bunch of Jalapeno Peppers Hotter than a reinvention lab!
Sweeter than a reinvented government organization!
As sour as an untapped workforce!


2 cups seeded red Serrano peppers
1 cup seeded red Jalapeno peppers
4 cups Vidalia onions
2 cups brown sugar or molasses
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup white vinegar

Liquify peppers, onions, and garlic in a food processor. Just like change, this can be an eye watering experience.

Place all ingredients except vinegar in a large pot and cook over medium heat until reduced by 1/2. To create change, the leader has to keep the heat on the whole organization.

Stir frequently to avoid sticking. It is a normal tendency for organizations to cling to familiar surroundings. The leader has to keep things stirred up.

When reduced by 1/2, remove from heat and add the vinegar. Stir until well blended. You have to know when the job is completed and preserve the results.

Immediately place the hot (heat) mixture in hot sterilized 1/2 pint self-sealing jelly jars.

"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries."

-James A. Michener

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Low Hanging Fruit

A Baker In the private sector, restaurant owners are under a lot of pressure to produce results early. Their investors want to know the restaurant will be a success, and the profits will soon begin rolling in. The restaurant owner's early goal is to fill that restaurant! Even if it means offering 1 for 2 coupons, or special inducements so prospective customers will give the new restaurant a try. This strategy produces two benefits: customers learn what the restaurant has to offer, and the owner can point to the filled restaurant as an early success.

As a reinventor, early success is important. The workforce will find the early phases of reinvention stressful because they are not accustomed to change. Also, there will be uncertainty as to whether the reinvention effort will be a continuing process, or just a brief fad. Early successes build the momentum to carry the organization through the slower phases of the change process.

Look for those changes that are easy to make. Or, look for improvements the workforce has wanted to make for some time. Hold listening sessions to obtain the ideas of your master chefs and of the workforce. In no time, you will have a list of changes that can be made quickly, and which everyone agreed were needed.

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Quick Success Pork Chop Casserole

4 to 6 pork chops
onion slices
salt & pepper
lemon slices
8 oz. tomato sauce or canned tomatoes

Salt and pepper pork chops, and brown both sides. Place the pork chops in your casserole dish, cover with an onion slice topped with a lemon slice. Cover with the tomato sauce or tomatoes. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

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