A Crutch or a Platform?

If you have a really dialed system in place, you don’t need excellent workers. McDonalds does it all the time: with unskilled workers from a huge variety of backgrounds, they can make the same Big Mac the same way every time. McDonalds realized early on that in order to scale in the fast food industry, it couldn’t wait for top-notch workers, for chefs with degrees and experience and opinions and “taste”. It had to take the employees that it could get–and so it built it’s Big Mac-generating system.

McDonalds built a crutch.


Rialto Restaurant is a upscale restaurant on Harvard Square, in Boston. They serve thousands of people every year, but they’ll never serve billions. They rely on Jody Adams and her highly-trained staff to produce high-quality food. Jody, in turn, relies on her recipes. She has checklists for every dish, and every dish is made to perfection. Nobody is allowed to deviate from the checklist, although being trained chefs, not everything is specified. Further, the recipes don’t stay the same, but change and improve over time [1]. Jody gets consistently good food, but still needs amazing talent to make good in the first place. Her and her chefs can create offline, when building a new recipe or tweaking an old one, but then they stick to what they’ve created while under the gun. The whole team works better because of the system.

Rialto built a platform.


What are you after? Do you need a crutch because you can’t find the people? Or do you need a platform to help the people you have?

[1] “The Idea”:Gawande, Atul The Checklist Manifesto, (New York: Picador, 2009)

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