Work clean – working like a top chef

In gastronomy, mise en place – positioned in the right location or place – is professional preparation of the workspace. A technical art with potential for the working world of the future. More and more managers work like Bocuse and co.: with efficiency and clear organisation on their desk.

Book cover of Work Clean by Dan Charnas

Work Clean by Dan Charnas

Working like internationally successful chefs: ‘Work Clean’ is the title of an inspiring book by New York author Dan Charnas, with ten clear organisational tips for a productive workspace.

Who has the most recent version of the business report? Where are the memos from the supraregional meetings stored? And when is the new project plan due? Regardless of how cool and modern the furnishings of an office are or how fast computers and other devices run: smart organisation will remain a core topic in the working world of the future.

Important: motivation, focused activities, good performance

An approach that is a matter of course for top-quality and world-famous professional chefs, and characteristic of their success, can also inspire employees, directors and managers: well thought-out mise en place – excellent preparation of the workspace – generates a smooth workflow and perfect results. That is the claim of New York journalist Dan Charnas in his book ‘Work Clean’. The trendsetter has meticulously studied the working methods of professional chefs and applied them to the working world of the office. His conclusion: the technical organisation and kitchen art has potential for work in the office of the future.

For the desk: the mise en place top ten

Cleaning and organising their desk – something that very few office workers do on a daily basis. But they should, according to Dan Charnas. Top chefs organise their workspace every day as an absolute matter of course, and it is exactly that which helps ensure their international success and their productivity. Anyone who manages their desk and the related projects in the office each day in an equally skilful way to a top chef will be just as successful and productive. Here are the ten most important mise en place tips to make that happen:

1. Time management – planning is prime

Chefs work against the clock every day. Honest and detailed time planning is the be-all and end-all to ensure all dishes leave the kitchen perfectly prepared in the evening. The professionals take sufficient time for that each day, and so should managers. Who in the company is responsible for which tasks and jobs? What products are to be considered in the process? What resources are available? What order of to-dos makes sense? Whether it is in the kitchen or the office: all necessary working steps for the daily mise en place list need to be put into a sensible and sequential work plan, taking into account potential upcoming bottlenecks from the outset.

2. In the office – arranging spaces and perfecting movements

The kitchen is hot and cramped. The available space therefore has to be used in an ideal and focused manner. In other words: there can be no superfluous journeys and not a moment can be lost looking for tools or products. The ideal organisation of the workspace in the office can be viewed as a triangle. The task is as follows: arrange your own desk optimally for its purpose – in analogue and digital terms. In the process, take a close look at your daily tasks and working steps.

Plan perfectly, work efficiently – like a pro chef

Plan perfectly, work efficiently – like a pro chef

3. At your desk – cleaning as you go

To ensure the work on the desk or in the mise en place triangle always remains structured and clearly arranged, tools are continually cleaned up and used items and products returned to where they belong during the process. That also applies digitally: the desktop of the laptop or PC is of course the equivalent of the desk in the analogue world.

4. Efficiency – making first moves

The sequence of work steps also plays a central role in mise en place. What is the best way to make a successful and productive start to the working day? What items on my mise en place to-do list can be quickly accomplished? Which are complicated and will take a long time? Which depend on one another? And which are ideal to start the day’s work?

5. Consistency – finishing actions

Not always easy to implement on a normal working day, but indispensable if, as with top chefs, the food should be delivered to the table in the evening perfectly prepared: the carefully planned working steps are completed from start to finish over the course of the day. Jobs that have been completed are ticked off on the mise en place list. That way, you maintain an overview until the very end, when the food is served. Transferred to office work, that means: each and every day, it is important not to lose sight of the previously defined to-dos, tasks and targets.

What a well-organised desk looks like

6. In the office as in the kitchen – slowing down to speed up

In the kitchen and at your desk, it is important to keep a cool head. The closer the restaurant opening time or a deadline gets, the greater the stress. Professional chefs don’t let this put them off their stride. They complete their mise en place jobs carefully so as to be perfectly prepared to maximise their working pace at the right time. A principle that every project manager and their team can also learn from.

7. Employees in a team – call and callback

Once the guests have arrived, everything in the kitchen must run like clockwork, with the kitchen team working together in perfectly coordinated fashion. That includes concisely acknowledging that the head chef’s orders have been received. In the kitchen, this is done with a quick ‘Yes, chef’. For companies large and small, this insight means always ensuring clear feedback and transparent workflows in all teams.

8. At the workspace – open ears and eyes

In the cramped and hot kitchen, it is equally important that everyone in the team keeps their ears and eyes open. By way of example, this includes respecting the room for manoeuvre of other employees and allowing for accidents before they happen. In other words: the focus is on the team and the team orientation of all employees – joined-up thinking from start to finish is encouraged. The task for the head chef or management is to demand this kind of team orientation, too.

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9. Productivity – inspect and correct

Those who work with passion like a top chef inspect and optimise their workflows and results every day. That means that daily evaluation of and reflection on their work is part of their craft, and the resulting continuous optimisation of workflows maintains the high standard.

10. Lean management – total utilization

Head chefs are trained not to waste anything. Each and every day, they pay attention to optimum use of time, space, movement, resources and staff. A clear philosophy that every company can also benefit from on a daily basis.

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