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2 May 2016

Insights Recipes Give About Using Business Rules and Processes

Business rules and processes play a key role at work. Recipes use rules and processes too. Thus, recipes can give insights into how employees can use them better at work.

Jacques Pépin on the Nature of Recipes

People often expect that by using a recipe they will duplicate a dish. People expect the repeatable outcomes from sets of rules and processes. However, as Jacques Pépin, a chef and cooking show host, explains, this expectation is false:


The paradox is that the recipe tells the reader, this must be done this way, when, in fact, to get the result you’re looking for, the recipe has to be modified each time.

In other words, following the recipe exactly can often lead to disaster. That is because:

When writing a recipe, one records a moment in time which can never be duplicated exactly again. . . . The exact reproduction of a taste, which is what the making of a dish is, only works when the processes, timing, and ingredients are adjusted and changed to fit each particular situation.

The Danger of Business Rules and Processes

The danger of business rules and processes is that employees could easily apply them without thought.

Business rules and processes reduce the need to think. This can be a recipe for disaster without excellent management.

The danger of any business rules and processes is that they become mechanical. Employees apply them without thought. They just go through the motions. The likelihood of deviation from expectations rises.

Pépin says many things could vary to make rigid following of recipes a disaster. The same holds true for business rules and processes. They fall under management’s responsibility. They include the:

  • Employees using them
  • Business culture influencing employees
  • Managers working with the employees
  • Degree to which employees buy into them
  • Follow up and encouragement employees receive
  • Internal office politics of the culture
  • Variability of customer orders and timeframes
  • Systems supporting the rules and processes

In fact, we can improve rules and processes without changing them by simply improving these factors. Yet, many process improvement advocates simply believe changing the rules and processes will change behaviors. This only works if no people use them, only computers.

Two Insights Recipes Give About Rules and Processes

There are two main insights then that recipes give about business rules and processes. The first is that rigid use is a recipe for disaster. The second is that they are no substitute for excellent management. It is the latter that can improve any set of rules or process without changing it.

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