MasterChef Agile Mindset: Five secrets not to forget!

Mike Sousa
Jun 4, 2017 · 7 min read

I am an Agile Coach and I love what I do! Being able to work with people and teams and help them improve and excel in what they do is an amazing feeling. And everything started (what now seems) a long time ago!

MasterChef Agile Mindset: Five secrets not to forget!

Let me tell you a story!

When I was younger every year when I enrolled in school I would choose as an extra activity cooking. But since the school did not have the necessary equipment I ended up not having those so desired cooking classes. At that time, in one of my many dreams, I wanted to be a Chef.

It is only natural that I enjoy seeing MasterChef (TV show) and all those amazing cooking experiences and challenges they have.

At this time you may be thinking: “How is this related with Agile?

Well, when I was seeing some episodes from MasterChef Australia I found myself realizing that those chefs and mentors were pretty much aligned with what is an Agile Mindset.

I will share with you five of the main reasons why I say they have an Agile Mindset. I called them secrets, not because nobody knows about it, but because people in their daily rush tend to forget to dig inside their own knowledge and common sense. And so they became secrets!

MasterChef Agile Mindset: Five secrets not to forget!” is a reality check and call to provide you with valuable information in your Agile Journey: in your company, in your career or in your private life.

Before we start let me just synchronize a couple of points with you so that we are on the same wavelength…

A SCRUM team is composed by Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development. They will win and fail, excel and improve as a team and not as individuals (but that is a different topic, probably to another talk or paper).

Let’s get started with the secrets

Secret 1: (Agile) Values

The Agile values are one of the main pillars for setting up a strong and real Agile mindset.

In MasterChef, we hear many times the mentors and Chefs say: “How much do you want this?”, “Do you really want it?”, “Trust yourself and in what you have learned!” or “You need to focus and gear up!”.

If you look carefully, these comments are well aligned with the strong values that one must have in order to overcome challenges and truly have an Agile mindset. And these sentences are just filled in with flavors…. commitment, focus, trust, respect (including with yourself), collaboration and transparency.

Commitment is your willing to actually do it and succeed. It is a measure of how much you want something. The trust is something that takes time to grow. When you have trust in yourself and in your abilities you will be able to do more. And when working with your team (yes in MasterChef you also work as a team, just think of the greatest kitchens in the world) trust will be very important to increase the level of collaboration between all team members. And then you need to focus on what you are doing, not getting distracted with the world around you, since that is the only way for you to Gear Up.

Secret 2: Comfort Zone

“Comfort food is an amazing way to fill in your heart with all the right memories. But when you want to excel yourself you must cook beyond comfort food and go to places you have never visit and been before! Do not do mediocre, do amazing!” — MasterChef

Being in your comfort zone is …. Comfortable!

But magic happens in lands that are far away from the “Shire” (geek reference: The Shire in Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings).

It is only when you have the courage (another Agile value) of leaving your comfort zone that you will understand that the limits that you know, do not exist and are not real; they are just boundaries that your mind created but that your mind can also overcome. The feeling you will get from overcoming that red line you believed, you were sure it was so well defined and was “uncrossable” is just one of the many magical moments you will feel just by having the courage to leave your nest.

Be aware that this is a journey filled with dangers, scaring moments and lots of uncertainty and doubt.

Dare to live in the Magic land!

Give yourself permission to dream and go beyond your beliefs and nightmares!

Secret 3: Embrace Change

(Another possible chapter title could be…) — “Be prepared to change & Plan” or even “Plan & Be prepared to change”.

“I just used this small part of the fish fillet to test for how long it needs to cook. I am glad I did since it is yet a little raw. I will give it two more minutes for the main fish fillets. [… feedback received from the jury:] The fish was cooked perfectly!” — MasterChef

Using a Spike to remove doubt, get insight, learn and define the best approach for the road ahead is one of the most valuable Agile learnings you can get. The spike will help you not to fail… or better… to eventually fail, but for sure learn and then do it Spot On!

You can also take it a nudge up by doing a POC (proof of concept). It can be most useful when you need to get feedback from a set of stakeholders or users; since it is much more visible than the spike.

Don’t over plan it; start from where you are and then improve as needed. Inspect & Adapt will lead you to improve what you already did. Having said that… whenever possible always consider future (already identified) needs in your work.

Change is good, Change is your friend. :)

Be ready to change and to address change whenever it pops up! Change is good, change is your friend, and change will drive you to better, improved results.

Secret 4: It is ok to Fail!

“Only when you stopped being afraid you were able to go beyond your limits and prove yourself you were capable of doing much more. And then you geared up!” — MasterChef

It is very important to create an environment where failing is not seen as a bad thing but something natural that we all need for evolving. By creating such an environment we are exponentially growing the possibility of getting to new ways of doing amazing things and discoveries.

And once the environment is a safe one, our mindset will shift and we will lose our fear of failing, since it no longer represents a negative thing but something positive and that will allow us to grow, do more and do it better (and happier).

[Parent’s tip: You can and should use this with your kids!]

If you are not afraid to fail, you can risk it and you can create amazing things!

Furthermore, when we fail fast and fail soon we don’t compromise our final result, objective or deadlines because now we know better.

Secret 5: STOP! to Inspect & Adapt

(In Agile) Yes, the retrospective is an important moment for us to Stop and inspect & adapt, but I am not referring to that… for now ;)

“Are you sure of what you are doing? Maybe you need to rethink that decision.” — MasterChef

When we are working under pressure we start doing our tasks in an automated mode without properly thinking in the rationale behind it. Pressure can make us have incoherent, rushed and not well thought decisions, and that is not a good thing; most of the times it is not good at all.

Pressure will make us lose focus on what it is really important to be done and also lose sight of the whole picture. To prevent this there is only one thing you can do: STOP! to inspect & adapt. You don’t need to spend a lot of time doing this, but from time to time, or whenever you feel the pressure rising, just STOP! to inspect & adapt.

Once you feel you are again under control and again aware of the vision, re-focus on what you need to do and just do it! Be prepared to listen to others and believe in yourself!

Final Cook!

As you saw above, MasterChef is indeed with an Agile Mindset.

They are nurturing the values as solid and good foundations for constructing everything on the top of it. By making a contestant move away from their comfort zone they are able to make them realize they are capable of much more and once they do, they don’t stop growing. By testing and preparing for change they learned that you can’t control everything and that you need to embrace change when it arrives, looking it in the eyes and then just adapting to whatever needed. Only when the contestants try something risky and they fail, then they learn that failing is just a faster way to success. And it is ok to fail, not a bad thing, just a faster way to learn. When the pressure really quicks in the contestants normally get lost and do mistakes. When they Stop! to inspect & adapt what they are doing and what is the best course of action to take that is the moment when they are really able to regain control of what they are doing and get back on track.

By keeping an Agile Mindset you will be able to also accomplish more in your work, your career and your life! … and most likely in your cooking too!

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Mike Sousa

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