I recently saw a great documentary on Netflix called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” It was the story of Jiro, a legendary Japanese chef who owns one of the top sushi restaurants in the world. I greatly enjoyed the movie, not only because it was wonderfully filmed, featured lots of mouthwatering shots of sushi, and had a good family story, but also because it gave a lot of great insight on business. My takeaways from this movie are applicable to any team leader in pretty much any organization, and of course to us in the technology space.
When I first thought about how Jiro, this individual, could make the best sushi in the world, I figured that after 50 years of practicing and working the art he had developed magic powers to somehow do it at a level of true greatness. However, upon further analyzing his journey, I realized that the truth is that while technique has played a huge part, the real secret is in the following:
He teaches. Making good sushi is a TON of work, which I never knew. It takes a year to just learn how to make perfect rice. It also takes a year to learn how to massage the octopus to make it tender, and it takes many years to cook the perfect egg. Jiro taught and mentored his team to be able to make each piece at the same high quality as if he had made it himself.
He tastes. Perhaps the biggest factor in his restaurant’s ongoing reputation for excellence is the fact that Jiro tastes everything he and his team prepares…relentlessly. The documentary showed him getting into it with his team time and time again, making sure that the product they were producing was top quality. For any team leader, the concept of getting down into the weeds with your team and “tasting” the product is of utmost importance. The only way to really know if the product is quality is if you are sampling the goods yourself, or, in our case, doing everything possible to assure the customer or user’s experience is optimized.
He presents. In order to add the “special touch” at the end, Jiro would personally perform the final flourish on every piece of sushi that was served in his restaurant. By doing so, he’d have a chance to make any last minute adjustments to the product to make it as perfect as possible. He managed the customer side of things and the finer points of presenting the work to ensure success.
What I saw in Jiro’s business philosophy and related success was counterintuitive to a lot of thinking that is something along the lines of this: “Delegate, and ultimately replace yourself. Build teams and units that can operate without you.” In some businesses, that is absolutely the path to follow. But in our industry, I’ve found that being personally involved in projects–just like Jiro is at his sushi restaurant–allows us to maximize the skills of everyone on the team. At Red Argyle, it also enables us to bring our own “special sauce” to whatever we are doing and deliver on our promise of excellent service and great results.