Tedious but Important

Some jobs are just plain boring

In the dim and distant past I was a Development Manager for a frozen food company.  My role was to launch new products, beef-burgers, potato waffles, ready meals, you get the idea.

Part of the job was very exciting, but part of it was as dull as dishwater.

The dull bit came first

Developing a new ready meal is not that thrilling.  Imagine creating a new chicken curry, test batch after test batch, everybody tasting it, everybody watching you, everybody a critic…

  • It needs more salt — test batch
  • Does that starch thicken properly — test batch
  • Saffron costs how much? — test batch
  • I don’t like the mouth feel (I kid you not) — test batch
  • Now it is runnier it tastes too salty — test batch
  • That chicken is cut too small – test batch
  • The sauce is overcooked — test batch

Test after test after test. It wasn’t unheard of to create 70 or 80 versions of a recipe.  Cooking should be fun, this was tedious.  There is only so much chicken curry you can eat.

Then came the exciting bit

First production, teaching the guys in the factory to make the new recipe, winding up the new equipment, ironing out the glitches.  Chicken curry takes on a whole new meaning when somebody is pumping tonnes of it at you.

But it is a thin line between excitement and disaster.

Imagine explaining to the Factory General Manager why he had just wasted 3 days producing 150 tonnes of yellow sludge that you were busy shipping to land fill. Those guys had no sense of humour.

If you want it to work there is no short cut

You have to put in your homework, no matter how dull it is.  Your recipe must be right…  The ingredients have to be there…  The machines better work…

There is no shortcut

Something to remember next time you are:

Unless of course your dog likes chicken curry.

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Image by eidlog42


  1. Hello James,

    I find myself reading you one day after spending a whole day reading-discussing health and safety. So what shows up? BP and its various health and safety disasters show up.

    It occurs to me that shortcuts are attractive even compelling in a business landscape focussed on making it in the short-term no matter the cost. And the price of taking shortcuts is paid in the longer term – and usually in the hope-expectation that others will pay that cost.

    Here I find that which Nassim Nicholas Taleb speaks: ensuring that those who play the game have skin in the game. And I’d say that they have skin in the longer tame game. It is only when when we have skin in the longer term game (And consequences) do we find ourselves avoiding the shortcuts and doing that which is necessary for mastery to show up.

    All the best,

  2. James Lawther says:

    Short term thinking, short term targets and a fast buck.

    All part of the problem Maz, I think you are absolutely right

  3. James,
    Sarah Simon, in a guest post on Annette Franz’s blog, sums it up well when she quotes the accomplished mountaineer Ed Viesturs as saying there are “no shortcuts to the top”.


  4. Thanks, Adrian, I was going to mention Sarah’s post as I read this. Shortcuts only mean that you will miss an important step, and things will breakdown or worse. Imagine if you took shortcuts in creating that recipe, in testing the recipe changes, etc. I shudder to think what the outcome/output would be.

    Annette 🙂


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