How to bake an organisation
At Alpaca we are having lots of conversations with our clients about their business and their need to change as a result of the pandemic. These changes can be big or small but the question we keep coming back to is ‘have you explored everything, before deciding this is the plan you are going to implement?’
I can hear you ask, ‘Well how would I know I have explored everything?’ ‘Would I know if I have missed something?’ It’s not easy and particularly when you may feel rushed into making a decision or you don’t know what the future holds, so I’m going to share one of my favourite* analogies with you.
Changing your business is like baking a cake and with the end of this seasons GBBO in sight what better analogy to use!
Before we begin
You have made it to the tent, congratulations. This means you must have an intention to bake (change your organisation) but do you have a good idea of what you are going to make?
Do you know what cake you are baking? Is it a Victoria sandwich? Perhaps you fancy trying beetroot and chocolate as a combination; is that a genius innovation or a nasty surprise when it comes out of the oven? Are there people around you who can advise you?
Do you have a recipe? Where has the recipe come from? Is the recipe written down so you can follow it and if necessary, anyone else can follow it for you, or is it scribbled on a tatty piece of paper that you keep in the bottom of your drawer?
Do you have all the Ingredients you need? Have you considered dietary requirements? This might be the same cake you always bake but now you have gluten intolerance to deal with. Are there some ingredients that have passed their sell by date and are no longer suitable for using in the cake?
Do you have the time to make this cake? It’s no good trying to deliver a ‘showstopper’ cake that takes 8 hours to create when you only have 4 hours in which to deliver it.
And finally, before you even start the bake, do you have the right equipment; bowls, mixers, weighting scales, measuring spoons, pans, trays, oven capacity?
In business terms this all equates to what is your business and what is it doing now; what does this look like in terms of your finances, people, processes, systems; where is your plan and is it written down in a way that is clear and everyone can understand what the plan is.
Is your organisation ready for the change, will they adapt, can they envisage what is coming in order to help you or are they lost until the change is finished in which case the plan may go awry?
Have you looked around to see if anyone is doing something similar, can you learn from them?
Can you make this change within the time required with the resources and expertise you have, or do you need external support?
Is the ‘equipment’ currently within your business enough to deliver your plan, do you know what investment is available to you and where you can access it?
Are you all set, do you know which order you need to work to create your masterpiece? Did you need to do any preparation before hand such as butter out of the fridge to soften or get the oven on before you do anything else? Do you need to re-read your recipe before you start?
What if it’s the ‘technical challenge’, you’ve never made this cake before and you only have a basic recipe perhaps you could have a look around and see what others in the tent are doing and if it looks sensible, copy it. However, if this is your recipe and you are comfortable with it don’t be put off just because Bob behind you is doing something different. It’s ok to know what you are doing and crack on with it!
You have a disaster! You used salt instead of sugar in your cake mixture. Damn those kilner jars that all look alike when you are under pressure. Stop, take a breath, take stock, can you save this, or do you need to start again? What can you adjust in the recipe to make sure you have something to present to the judges?
Getting back to applying this in your business. Do you have the skills and experience to undertake and sustain this change; do your team have the required skills and experience to cope with the change; would you benefit from running a pilot scheme first; do you have any ‘what if’ plans; is there knowledge out there you can tap into; have you told those who need to know that you are making this change such as the bank, serving a break notice, raising the funds?
The dreaded call for 5 minutes left, are you going to complete in time, how are you presenting your bake, is it looking like a masterpiece or a disaster that might pass with a sprinkle of glitter? You walk the cake up to the table and hold your breath; does it pass muster or is it destined for the bin; can you take the feedback and learn from it or will we see the same mistakes next week? What are you going to tell you family and friends about your experience and how will this differ to what they see when the show is aired?
We know that for the GBBO competitors it’s a raised eyebrow or if they are lucky a handshake but what about your cake, what are you doing with it afterwards? Are you selling the cake, parcelling out little pieces for different people or having delivered this cake agreeing to bake regularly for the customer; do you know what you should be charging for the cake, are you going to charge more if the customer wants extras on the cake; who’s responsible for your quality control; what if the customer wants a different cake next time? Have you got the necessary agreements in place; do you need to make changes to your contracts of employment, commercial terms and conditions, licencing agreements, fee structure etc?
What have you communicated so far, will your employees, clients, customers, suppliers know the change is complete? What will look, sound, feel different and how will this compare to what you communicated at the beginning? Will you be honest if errors are made or your change didn’t quite go to plan?
You are through to the next week – congratulations!
If redesigning what you do as an organisation feels like it’s too hard think about using the baking analogy; imagine your change as a recipe. Be aware of the steps you need to take and follow them. Even if at the end of this your cake wouldn’t win any awards, you used a recipe and you made what you believed to be the right ‘cake’, with the ingredients and the time you had available to you. I call that a result!
*My favourite analogy is comparing Alpaca and what we do to ‘The Pips’. Some of you may not have heard of Gladys Knight but she is considered an amazing singer and performer in her own right but when she had ‘The Pips’ as her backing singers she become a legend! In their early Motown career, Gladys Knight and The Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight stated in her memoirs that Dianna Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to her soulful performance overshadowed Dianna Ross. Berry Gordy (music mogul and founder of Motown records) later told Gladys that she was giving Dianna Ross a hard time. That’s what we do at Alpaca, we help you become the performer that overshadows the main act!