Food Fight or Happy Meal?

Posted by jlubans on March 09, 2017

Caption: Culinary Committee. Always watch out for the guy with the bâtard!

Food fight or teamwork? That’s the unanswered question in a recent BBC Business story,“Recipe for success: The growth of team-building cookery classes”.
According to the BBC, and confirmed by an e-multitude of global purveyors, culinary team building is the latest rage in out-of-office fun and games.
For sure, team cooking improves on walking on hot coals – Stop press! Let’s combine the two: scorched feet and Sauté of Crawfish Vol-au-Vent on the side!
Well, kidding aside, is this but an expensive ($125 per head) escape from one’s cubicle or does team cooking accomplish something more: improved communication, camaraderie, and group dynamics? The vendors aver it is so.
But, I suspect even the corporate kitchen adventures get their share of negative feedback. Perhaps less than that when office mates are forced “to race your boss around an assault course, or pass a beach ball to a colleague without using your hands” during a company away-day.
When I was offering team building adventures like my “Days in the Woods” series for work teams I learned a few important concepts. Always, make the event voluntary. And, secondarily, count on the most vehement criticism to come from those who do not attend.
By working with only those who want to be there the individual participant has the opportunity to learn about himself and herself and their colleagues. Those insights did extend back to the workplace and did make for improvements.
A third operating rule was that there had to be an open discussion about what happened and what personal effect it had on the individual and how that insight might apply to work. It was less the need for a skilled psychologist than asking the right questions to start exploring and applying. The more voluntary the event, the more honest, less guarded the discussion.
Sure, like recess, team cooking can be fun. But since it’s on the corporate dollar, is there substance to the claim that all this fun does result in a more bonded team?
Or is it really just an advanced version of sanctioned time off that results in yummies like “twice-baked cheese soufflés, roulade of chicken in a Madeira jus, and apple tartlets with a salted caramel sauce”?
The article asks but does not answer: “Would you tell your boss that his or her cooking skills weren't very good?” How about your office mate? How about yourself?
I would think a simple plus/delta, like I do with my Books to Eat teams in my Democratic Workplace class, or a modified AAR (After Action Review):
What was supposed to happen?
What actually happened?
Why were there differences?
would be a quick way to assess what was good and what could have been better in dealing with the heat of the kitchen. And for further exploration, it would be good to confirm if the “C factor” applies in team cooking. You will recall that
“C” is a predictor of group failure or success and includes three elements: participant emotional or social IQ; the number of engaged participants; and, interestingly, the number of women on the team.
Do the chef-leaders ask the teams to think about what they’ve just accomplished? Do they ask for some introspection on how each person contributed or did not contribute? What might the team have done better? If the “soufflé” fell, how to prevent that from happening the next time?
The article does not mention any kind of de-brief. So, once the goods are out of the oven, is the discussion only about pairing wines to the free eats?
Even then, with no attempt to assess team dynamics, the individual participant can do his/her own diagnosis. What would they do differently to be a better participant, a more effective team member? If one held back, why? If one felt left out, what might have changed that?

Caption: Honest feedback.

N.B. My new book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, will be out in June 2017 as
both an e-book and a soft cover print-on-demand book. The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned, Béatrice Coron.
I hope to have prepublication information up soon on Amazon and other purchasing venues.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017
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