Scaling Keystrokes
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Scaling Keystrokes

Gordon Ramsay’s guide to (digital) transformation

Has your enterprise lost its relevance like a kitchen nightmare? Do you have too many cooks spoiling the broth? Or perhaps your teams have lost their edge like a knife that hasn’t stroked a chef’s steel in a while?

Don’t worry as Gordon Ramsay’s DONKEY (TM) framework is a trusted playbook to turn hell’s corporate inside out, and you into a master chief.

Think you’ve heard it all before? Don’t assume, as that makes an ASS out of U and Me.

Dive Deep

Before you can transform, job number 1 is to understand where you are at. We need to dive deep into all parts of the business and uncover the baseline. Get perspectives from all areas, gain clarity on your problem and build a hypothesis on how best to solve.

We see this a lot in Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon takes time to really understand where the restaurant is at by experiencing things from a customer perspective and spending time talking to the staff to gather insights on what’s actually happening.


  1. Look at things from the perspective of a new customer
  2. Gain insights from those working on the ground and audit the production chain
  3. Identify the bright sparks and analyse what’s working
  4. Understand the current context, both internally and externally
  5. Frame the problem to be solved and map the system that causes it

Own It

We’ve diagnosed the problem and know what’s blocking our transformation. Perhaps the capability of your people is not quite there, maybe the processes you have are weighing you down, or the underlying technology you use doesn’t help you in your current context. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t admit there is a problem to be solved.

Bosses that don’t admit there is a problem are some of Gordon’s most frequent challenges. Everyone sees it, but the management are often the biggest blockers. It’s totally understandable too. The ego is a fragile thing, and admiting that your execution is not as good as your aspirations is tough.


  1. Reality check with data points to expose exactly how bad the situation is
  2. Radical honesty to admit that this is a problem that you don’t know how to solve
  3. Systematically identify and break the self limiting beliefs that are holding you back
  4. Executive sponsorship to make this a priority problem that’s properly resourced
  5. An accountability framework that incentivises the transformation team to deliver outcomes and regularly measure progress towards these outcomes

New World

After admitting where we are, it’s time to get excited about what could be.

Whether it’s bringing one of his chef friends, taking a field trip to a great restuarant or checking out the local farmer’s market, Gordon’s mission is to inspire the the team with new ideas. Whilst this is happening, he brings in his own team to make over the restaurant, to show them that change is possible in the current context.


  1. See what good looks like by taking field trips to places that give you inspiration
  2. Leverage the assets you have at hand to give yourself an unfair advantage
  3. Commission projects to give you a quick win. Bring in an expert and get them working on this to show your organisation that things can change.
  4. Identify the latent talent in the organisation and give them the platform to express themselves
  5. Implement the right tools that allow the team to do great work.

Keep It Simple

Transformations are messy and complex, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. We don’t need an army of people to manage change, or months of planning and documenting of our approach. Keep things simple and let people build confidence. Change happens one person at a time.

Do less but do it better.

Keeping it simple according to Gordon means overhauling the menu and giving consumers less choice. It’s about building systems that allow the team to make great dishes consistently and quickly. It’s about focusing on the things that really bring delight and discarding everything else.


  1. Simplify the portfolio of products offered and focus on ones that delight the customer
  2. Remove work that does not add value and double down on what’s working
  3. Redefine the process to make it easier for people to increase both output and quality
  4. Script the critical moves and provide clear instructions on what actions people need to take
  5. Focus everyone on one key metric that provides a leading indicator to progress.

Enable Them

Transformation, despite what consultants tell you, are about the people in the organisation. It’s not about the team that drives the change, and thinking that this team is something special causes more harm then good. It’s about helping those on the ground work in new ways, find more meaning and delivering value in new ways.

Our goal is to give people the right capability, character and context to thrive.

We constantly see that Gordon is all about enabling the people he works with vs giving them recommendations to implement. Success for him is when people work in a new way, not when he’s finished desiging.

In Kitchen Nightmares, we see this manifest in a variety of ways including working side by side with the team in the kitchen, providing clear and simple instructions for new recipies and constantly celebrating those that are working in the new way.


  1. Work side by side with teams to help them build confidence and capability. Shadow those working in new ways to oversee and provide a safety net
  2. Launch new initiatives in a controlled environemnt with limited users to lower the stakes of failure
  3. Connect those that get it, build a network of coaches and document the reference material to support the organisation on their journey
  4. Systematically identify and remove organisation level blockers (deep systems) that prevent teams from working in this new way
  5. Regularly communicate success to the rest of the organsiation to show that change is happening

Yours Now

Finally, with people enabled, it’s time for the drivers of transformation to leave and the plays that were developed handed over back to the organisation. It’s time for the organisation to make the transformation their own and add a flavour that’s unique to them.

Here we see Gordon hand the reigns back to the new team and give them one less pep talk. As the sun sets in the background, and a halo shines above his head, he looks you in the eye, gives you a nod and makes his exit.


  1. Start small and scale up. Treat the transformation as a product, not a project. Your employees are the customers so use lean product management techniques to drive your pirate metrics.
  2. Always iterate. Use every project as a way to gather learnings on what worked and what didn’t work. Implement these findings into the next wave of projects
  3. Onboard new hires into this new of working through training and exposure
  4. Build a permanent entity in the organisaiton that is responsible for looking at the transformation holistically
  5. Build a responsive organisation by increasing loop velocity across the three key loops (customers/products, products/strategy, and strategy/ context)

BONUS — Continuos Transformation

Transformation is not a one time thing. It’s not a linear progression. It’s messy and hard. Build the muscle to constantly reinvent yourself.

Be brave and make progress.

You can do it.




Thoughts on the intersection of technology, business and culture. Stories mostly about Innovation, Product & Designing for Happiness. Always in beta as rough cuts are better than no cuts.

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Enterprise Innovation guy based in Malaysia. All opinions my own, unless awesome (then they are available to the highest bidder-

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