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  • Writer's pictureIan Crocombe

What have baking and continuous improvement got in common?

I was asked the other day to explain why I don't just use one approach to help people be better.

If you’ve skimmed any of my previous posts, you will know I take inspiration and learning from all sorts of odd places and if, like millions of others you’ve experienced the Great British Bake Off then you might remember Iain from a few years back.

He was the chap who had a bit of a disaster with his Baked Alaska,… have a look:

The lesson Iain learnt is no matter how badly things go, never throw your bake in the bin. REPEAT: NEVER THROW YOUR BAKE IN THE BIN.. When his Baked Alaska didn’t set, he decided his serving suggestion was to chuck the whole thing away. He had nothing to present to the judges, and was booted from the show for it.

So here’s the thing. Have you ever wondered why some improvement activity just doesn’t deliver what you expect? Have you questioned yourself and perhaps others about why the methodology you’ve trained for and chosen, just hasn’t hit the mark?

Improving any aspect of an organisation needs a recipe, the ingredients need to be blended together, it needs the right amount of cooking time and the presentation has got to be mouth-wateringly good.

That’s why you cant make a cake with just one approach, that’s why baking is as much an art as it a process. You can give two people the exact same ingredients with the same recipe and yet one will often turn out much better than the other. That’s why I don't use just one approach to improve things.

Understanding the ingredients of an organisation is a sound base. Understanding how those ingredients mix together begins to unlock the chances of a great outcome. Understanding the way those ingredients change over time, when exposed to the heat of real life opens up a world of options and understanding the appetite of your customers / service users takes your mastery to new levels.

Having the right tools, ingredients and recipes is of course the place to start, but the know how of blending those things together, getting the experience just right, a bit like like baking is as much an art as it is a science or process.

That’s why a single approach rarely provides the Paul Hollywood handshake. (If you’ve watched the programme, you’ll know what I mean)

Like the contestants in Great British Bake Off, there’s a need to practice, a need to achieve consistency and predictability, to try new ingredients and see what happens but most of all, NEVER THROW YOUR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE BIN.

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