Respect the Cook

Rigid roles and hierarchies have a way of interfering with good work.

When people have the power to withhold resources and rewards, others grow reticent to tell them things they don’t want to hear. This restricts the free flow of information.

When the boss visits the kitchen’, this tendency to paint the best possible picture in front of the person holding the purse strings can cause any cook to underperform.

Smart organizations tend towards flat hierarchy, prioritizing the flow of information over status and position, so that the company can best benefit from each individual’s skills and knowledge.

When developing the Toyota Production System, one of Taiichi Ohno’s major strategies for continuous improvement was to elicit and capitalize on expertise that workers have in their own domain.

Standards should not be forced down from above but rather set by the production workers themselves. - Taiichi Ohno


No single individual always has the best answer, and the further we get from the Gemba, the more distorted our understanding of the work becomes.

When we’re in someone else’s kitchen, and we let them call the shots, we get better information, deeper commitment, and distributed empowerment.

Organizations that develop this habit tend to have happier, healthier, and more engaged workers who report higher levels of belonging, purpose, and work satisfaction. And that creates value.

Recognize who’s kitchen you’re in, and respect the cook.


5 Habits of Healthy Organizations

  1. Work Slow
  2. Build a Library
  3. Respect the Cook
  4. Shake Out the Rug
  5. Share the Spoils

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