Gordon Ramsay’s coaching style is definitively unique and effective. What I find interesting is the pattern (or model) he is using to salvage restaurants and how it could apply to an agile coach trying to implement an agile transformation or offer coaching in a company that lifeline is getting shorter by the day. Looking at Nokia, RIM or PayPal, you might wonder if a pinch of Gordon Ramsay would not be such a bad idea after all!

Simplifying, it seems his model may look like (figure 1):

Figure 1: Gordon Ramsay’s coaching model as I see it

1)       Identify impediments

First Gordon Ramsay identifies why the restaurant is not doing well, what is stopping the team from delivering good food on time.

2)      Set clear accountability

Then, he knows some drastic decisions will need to be taken and changes will be made. Thus, he identifies who is the person who can make such decisions (usually the owner of the restaurant although it can be the chef or any employees).

3)      Promote shared responsibility

Everybody deserves a second chance and he wants the team to go in the right direction: he promotes shared responsibility, better communication between team members.

4)      Remove impediments

Some impediments that prevent the restaurant to make significant process need to be removed: he does not remove them directly but helps the people held accountable to make such decisions.

Notice that he does not get impediments removed from the beginning: he really gives an opportunity to the team to learn.

5)      Get to the heart of the elephants and direct the riders [reference 2]

Now, using the CDE model (see figure 2 “CDE Model”, [reference 1]), he needs to change the dynamic of the team: he is going to do just that.  The CDE Model helps understand what actions could be required to get teams self-organizing based around containers, differences and exchange. Let’s see how this is applied by Gordon Ramsay:

He is going to change the “container”  (boundaries): redesigning the restaurant and the kitchen. Not only this has a functional impact, but he also appeals to the “elephants” [reference 2], the feeling (we all need to know why we are doing it, what the purpose is – emotional part of everybody)! That gives a boost to the team!

He may have to dampen the “differences” (between people within the container) such as bringing a more experienced and more collaborative chef.

He may also ask the restaurant manager to welcome customers as opposed to spending time in the already crowded kitchen, altering or transforming the “exchange” (how people interact).

Figure 2: CDE model

But that is not all, he needs to appeal to the “riders” too (people who spin around until they are given clear instructions – we all at some point need to know what the steps are to achieve our goals) and give them a new menu, simpler and easier to execute (forget complex or complicated menus – see figure 3 “The Spectrum of Process Complexity”). Everybody can not only see the new process but can taste it too!

Looking at the figure below (figure 4, [reference 3), Gordon Ramsay simplifies the process in the restaurant: he simplifies   the kitchen (the “technology”) and the menu (the “requirements”). From initial chaos with food that does not taste any good to the use of frozen food and micro-wave, Gordon Ramsay is able to make use of simple cooking techniques and simple recipes.

Figure 3: The Spectrum of Process Complexity

6)      Commit and deliver

Although the team has got some success,  failed and learned, the real commitment is once he has established the new rules and the new environment. The team understands the new menu, is motivated by the changes and is ready to commit: they do and, magic of television, they deliver!


Clearly swearing would not really work in a software company: not sure if even Gordon Ramsay would get away with it? What is really interesting is his coaching style to make the team far more effective and bond together! Using known coaching techniques and simple principles, there is quite a few tricks we can learn from him in our day-to-day agile coaching life!


[1]:CDE Model: Mike Cohn, “Succeeding with Agile”

[2]: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Thorndike Health, Home & Learning)

[3]: The Spectrum of Process Complexity: Cynefin framework