Thursday, July 15, 2010

Curry: How Much Spice Is Good For Organization?

I love curry: it's spicy, there is a lot of it, it is easy to make, and you can have lots of friends over for some curry with basmati rice and an assortment of sambals. That's what I did a couple of days ago. Spain being Spain, only one Italian turned up on time. An hour and a half tardiness is considered fashionable. It is a great way to allow the host to have uninterrupted conversations on subjects of common interest with those who are unfortunate to follow the old maxim "punctuality is politeness of kings".

The main course for the dinner was red Indian curry (for some strange reason I was cooking beef, but please let's keep that fact secret). When we started eating it transpired that there are people who love spicy food and there are those who would need at least five glasses of lassi with it (in addition to the whole performance with tears, moans and groans about the injustice of this world and existence of chili peppers). The food was a success, of course, in my eyes... and whoever disagrees is not invited to my place ever again.

As usual, I started thinking of parallels and connections in the organizational context. Curry - you cannot be impartial - is either loved or loathed. There is no golden middle and there are no gray areas. How do you make a perfect "organizational curry" without disappointing anyone? The problem is that you add chilies at the very beginning, after you are just done sauteeing onions. You cannot make it more or less hot (well, surely you can by adding extra chilies later or diluting it with yogurt but those are culinary perversions I don't want to ruminate).

Think about an event, a policy, a project - anything in your workplace - that you are going to launch/introduce/set up or whatever... how much spice can you add? Add none at all and it will be bland. Add a lot and you will be pleasing a few selected junkies. How much is just right? Plus bear in mind that there are always those vegetarians, lactose intolerant and curry-allergic. By the way, I am apologizing for picking on those categories (been a vegetarian for two years myself), but I just want to make a point that there are always certain categories of people who fall out of the general picture and need special attention.

An easy example would be the air-conditioner rule. Do you know that if there are more than 5 people in the room, somebody is bound to ask to turn the AC either up or down? It would not be so funny, if it weren't so sad. Nowadays, in big corporations there is an international standard of 22.4 degrees Centigrade unless another unanimous agreement in reached about the room temperature. What if the issue is merely a notch more complicated than the freaking temperature-changing and air-dehydrating contraption? Then the companies resort to the services of....consultants! Yes, please, Mr and Mrs Bain and McKinsey, come and help us with the organizational kitchen. The old wisdom still stands though: too many cooks are unlikely to make a good boeuf bourguignon. Scrambles egg - maybe, but we are not in the business of fast-food solutions.

I guess that the point of this post is to make myself aware (and whoever is reading this too) that if it is difficult to cook a dish of curry for five friends (and the curry turned out delicious, trust me!!!), it will take much more time, efforts, expertise, experience, huffing and puffing, groaning and moaning, and other words normally associated with hard and unpleasant labor before you get the job done.

Bon appetit!

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