Jones Business Solutions Ltd | I burnt the cake!
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I burnt the cake!

I burnt the cake!

I belong to a book club in the rural community where I live. We take turns at hosting every couple of months. When it is your turn you add some new books to the collection, take it last year’s contribution and – most importantly – bake a cake! Currently this needs to be dairy- and gluten-free. Invariably I try a new recipe and buy some new ingredients.

Turns out our oven had blown its thermostat! Baking the cake the day before seemed sensible – until it came out very brown! No shop around the corner where I live so a case of having to make do! I trimmed off the worst bits, made a syrup with some frozen berries ready to soak over the top of it come afternoon tea-time for Book Club. Some plant-based yoghurt on the side   (who knew that was a thing?) and it was palatable – just!

Taking some positives from this I decided to apply what had happened in a business context. Here are my thoughts.

Have a plan

(The recipe.) Before embarking on a project understand what you want to achieve. Think about the end result – and how you will feel – satisfaction, fulfilment – you get the idea. Make sure you have the things you need (ingredients and equipment). This should include time, including those of others who may be helping on the project. Your outline could be quite detailed or more informal – have one! Before you start having those key steps itemised helps give you clarity and focus. Don’t have the exact resources (ingredients)? Have some backup options in place by way of contingency.

Follow the plan

(The recipe.) Stick to your plan. Avoid distractions. Focus on each key step (how many of us have missed putting in the sugar at the right time!). This might be straightforward with ticking off tasks as they are worked through, or more detailed documentation for a larger project. Keeping notes and adding them to a project outline can really help with a similar one down the line. Where others are involved keep them in the loop. Changes may occur with timelines or extra work that wasn’t originally foreseen. Be professionally courteous – don’t make it a one-off because you didn’t communicate well with those helping. Stay aligned with the original plan!

Adapt and refine

(Adjust the recipe.) Life being what it is mean things don’t always go to plan, my burnt cake is testament to that! I had the recipe, the ingredients and the equipment – in my case the equipment caused a problem. Noting issues as they occur and making adaptive changes will see you still achieve the desired results. Be flexible in your thinking for any challenges – there will always be more than one way of resolving these. (Don’t storm out of the kitchen!). Having a feedback loop will help you refine the process and better your approach for next time. If you are the sole person on a particular project have a trusted colleague or business partner as your feedback option. Just saying things out loud can help us identify an issue or come up with a solution. Have the aim of continuous improvement as your goal. (Each time you do the same recipe you refine your technique, make small tweaks, and get an even better cake each time!)

Learnings

Take the time at the end to acknowledge the completed work. Celebrate it! Identify what went well and what didn’t. Ak yourself why. Refine the process ready for next time. Update your documentation ready for the next project (add new steps into the process, identify how/when to communicate with others). My recipe cards have lots of notes down the side for changes, alternative ingredients, different cooking times, etc. Transfer your new-found knowledge. Being generous with your insights with your colleagues will deepen these professional relationships. Contributing to collective learning helps everyone out. Think about your overall approach too when undertaking a review. Were there any aspects that could have been managed differently? Involve your feedback crew on this part – they may see things from a wider lens than you. Be honest with yourself with your reflections – remember you want progress not perfection.

To sum up

Have an outline and an end goal to work with and focus on. Notes on a napkin can be just as effective as a more detailed document – the important thing is to have something! Communicating promptly with any issues or changes will maintain your professional reputation. Pausing at the end to pat yourself on the back is important – do it! Book Club was a success – the main purpose is to have fellowship and connection – and a topic of conversation was cooking failures – some tall stories and laughter as a result! Oh and I have a new oven that is behaving as expected!

“Things don’t always go as planned, but it’s when you make a plan out of the unplanned and make the best of the unlikely things in life.”
Oscar Auliq Ice – writer