PM Essence
Get the Best out of your Kitchen - Apply PM concepts to Make it Happen

- Lakshmi Ramakrishnan, PMP, Lam Research Corporation

This write up considers a kitchen project whose charter is to serve a tasty, nutritious & wholesome platter to the family and guests. The business case is of course, to satisfy the hunger and win the appreciation at the dinner table. Identification of the menu is a fundamental requirement. In this exercise, a traditional Indian vegetarian menu is planned for - so there are no provisions for baking or grilling. Minor variations can be derived from the plan, providing for items such as salads and desserts, so only common underlying cooking concepts are used..

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Since this is a routine activity, exhaustive planning is often not done, and may not even be required for experienced homemakers or cooks. Scoping is usually done, at least to the extent of the menu, although the menu may get altered during the course of cooking, while discovering shortage or even excess supplies of some groceries. Scheduling often is never done, and the home cook often jumps to work in excitement, without adequate prior thought. And it is precisely this, which leads to delays and poor results. Cost management is a onetime activity, right at the time of procuring groceries. Fuel costs are fixed overhead costs, typically not computed, while effort / HR costs are assumed to be nil, in the home kitchen. Human resource plan would include providing for resources to cut and prune vegetables, clean groceries, cooking, grinding, etc.

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This example being a small scale home operation, the overall plan is tailored for selfsufficiency. Material and other resources include food ingredients, cooking gas/ electricity, power, vessels, clean empty desk space. On the procurement front, timely purchase of required ingredients based on menu planned is a prerequisite. However, in this context, procurement can also potentially include subcontracting or purchasing sweets off the shelf. Communications might be limited to seeking menu choices from the guests, or asking for ideas to modify the choices mid-way for contingency. Thus the greater focus is on risks and what could go wrong, due to aspects not taken care of.

There are a variety of risks to be considered and planned for. The risks are mentioned in the Risk Breakdown Structure. Impacts of risks can be delay due to sudden breakdown of equipment such as mixers or power cut causing mixer or water filter unavailability, etc. Alternately impacts may also be poor quality and loss of resources.

- The most fundamental risk is not finishing the menu on time, either due to time shortage or due to unanticipated events, and thus keeping sequencing itself help mitigate these.

- Accidents include oil spillage, cooked/uncooked material spill resulting in material loss, rework or delay.

- Skewed or imbalanced nutrition must be avoided by proper menu choices at the beginning

- Overload of vessels in sink leading to tumbling of vessels and spillage & loss of time.

- Lack of time can translate into use of unclean vessels in a hurry.

- Mitigation plans would be to check the facilities, plan to complete power dependent tasks first, clean vessels and work space upfront, take precaution to not touch oily surface with wet hands (use towels). Sequencing cleaning activities at the start can help avoid hygiene related risks altogether.

- Forceful water from the tap can cause unhealthy dirty soap water spray onto food items that might be placed nearby. This can be avoided if sink is positioned away from the stove, but if not, it can be mitigated by not indulging in any cleaning until all cooking is done and dishes moved away.

- Overcooked food might be an accepted risk, with minimal negative impact It would serve well for some of these tips and best practices may eventually end up in the Home Process Assets, suitable for the specific culture and menu.

Let's conclude, with a toast to Project Management, hoping to leave the guests all smiles!
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