I want to start this off by saying that I am a huge Gordon Ramsay fan, from Kitchen Nightmares, to Hell’s Kitchen, to his various series he does in the UK; across the board Gordon can do no wrong. He is clearly an expert in his field and the magic that he works turning around the restaurants (specifically in Kitchen Nightmares) is amazing. If you spend any time watching Gordon, and actually listening to him (which people tend to forget to do) he clearly knows what he is talking about and an expert in his field. He has success around the world, he is a proven leader, and I am sure he has a huge pocketbook to prove it.

It was during one of the times I was watching an episode of Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares that I got to thinking about what Gordon actually does when he evaluates these restaurants and how that same process could be applied to projects very easily. If people are not familiar with the show, let me break down what Gordon does and then let me spend a minute and apply that to how that would work on our projects. To me, I see a very simple and easy match, however, this is not something that I would expect that project managers would be happy to let happen very easily.

Gordon’s Restaurant Evaluation – A very simple high-level view

  1. Sampling of the food (he tries almost everything on the menu)
  2. Review of the surroundings (color, lighting, atmosphere…etc.)
  3. Review of the kitchen processes
  4. Review of staff (including qualifications, background, experiences of owners, wait staff, bartenders, chiefs…etc.)
  5. Review of fridges (walk-in’s, freezers), food quality, ….and the list goes on and on.

I want to be clear, I am not doing an episode by episode replay, but this is important to understand because of where I am going with how it could impact our project process.

After Gordon spends the time and evaluates these multiple areas he then starts the process of making changes and making recommendations to turn around the restaurant. He changes menus, updates and paints the place, changes processes, hires chiefs, and basically gets the restaurant set up for success.

After Gordon leaves, it is up to the current owner to maintain everything Gordon has set up in their restaurant.

You can imagine, some do and some don’t and I know (and I don’t know Gordon personally) but for the restaurants that do fail, I just know that Gordon takes that personally and I am sure he feels let down that it has failed. Only Gordon himself can answer that…

So, let’s think about this process that Gordon does for a second. He comes in, he evaluates, he recommends, he changes, he leaves (a successful working restaurant by the way!) all in the matter of weeks. To us, the viewing audience, we see it all happen in an hour (sometimes two), but you know for a fact that it has to be weeks before a restaurant that he has transformed is really turned around and working effectively. Ah, the magic of TV.

Anyway, let’s now look at this from a project management perspective.

What happens in the real world (sorry Gordon, not TV land) around the evaluating of projects? Well, we have all been involved in project auditing processes before and have had audits take place to our projects for years. If your projects are involved in SOX, Regulatory compliance…etc. then auditing is a way of life, for sure. During these auditing processes, we have heard, you don’t have this deliverable, or this schedule is out of date, or you are not tracking your budget. The list goes on and on, and something that we have all heard for many years. It all tends to be blah, blah, blah for many project managers and the value of it seems to be questionable.

And ladies and gentlemen THAT is the problem!

That process of auditing a project in that manner is not what I am talking about at all. It is also not what Gordon offers when he rolls into these restaurants. He is not an auditor, he is not a list-checker, no, he is an expert in his field that knows how these restaurants should be running and where they are failing. He has seen it for years, that restaurants make the same mistake over and over and if they change this or that, they can be more successful. I wonder if we in the project management industry see the same project mistakes over and over?

Remember what he does? He comes in, he evaluates, he recommends, he changes, he leaves and so what if we could apply those same processes to our projects, how much better off do you think our projects would be? Do you think we would deliver more effectively, better on-time metrics, better business value being obtained…etc. You are darn right, if we had experts like Gordon Ramsay come in and do what he does to restaurants to our projects, across the board our projects would be more successful.

I know for a fact, that what Gordon is doing would work exactly the same way on projects as what he does to his restaurants. What if we took someone like Dr. Harold Kerzner and replaced Gordon with Harold and had him look at our projects using that same process (he comes in, he evaluates, he recommends, he changes, he leaves)? Harold is the father of project management, an industry expert, leading project management author, and would be an incredible asset to look at any project and recommend areas to improve. It would be an honor for Harold to review projects and Project Managers would certainly not be thinking blah, blah, blah if Dr. Kerzner was providing them project management advice. No, it would be like Gordon talking to the restaurant owners, Tiger giving golf advice, or Michael Jordon giving basketball advice, when these people talk, people listen.

Do you think it would be difficult for project managers to accept? Do you think we can get project managers to embrace that kind of opening of their projects to allow Harold to come in and review their work? Remember, restaurant owners are asking Gordon to come in and help them turn around their restaurants and therefore they are looking for help. For some reason, project managers don’t tend to look for help as much and can be leading projects into complete failure without even knowing it. What if someone a little less famous than Gordon or Harold came in and reviewed the projects? Is it different because they are not as famous, or will that person’s opinion not be as valued? Can we get the project management industry to get away from audits and start to embrace the process of learning and growing off each other’s expertise like restaurant owners learn from Gordon?

All interesting questions and something that as an industry, I think we need to revamp and relook at the way project auditing is done and look to project managers to open up their projects, not from a pure auditing perspective but from a perspective that they want to learn and grow from each other. There is never a shortage of opinions and different ways of doing something in the project management space, but there are also some strong project experts out there (like Gordon) that have been successful and can help other project managers become more successful if they listen and take the advice in the same way the restaurants owners take it from Gordon. Project managers who are not threatened by allowing someone to review what they are doing and taking feedback will in the end be much more successful than sticking to their guns and continuing to do things the way they have been doing it for years. I guess if they do, we could always send in Gordon Ramsay, he is definitely going to make some changes…

Gordon to the rescue…



Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Bill Dow

Bill Dow

Contributing Author

Bill Dow, PMP is a recognized expert in Project Management by the Project Management Institute (PMI) for specifically developing and managing Project Management Offices (PMOs.)  His extensive experience with Project Management and PMOs have enabled him to co-author several comprehensive books available through Amazon.com.

Bill has taught at the college level for more than 15 years in Washington State, British Columbia and Ontario, Canada, and has worked at Microsoft for more than 10 years.  He has spoken at multiple Project Management Institute (PMI) conferences, breakfasts and events nationally.  


"PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down,"  June 2017  (Amazon Link)

“Project Management Communications Tools,” May 2015 http://tinyurl.com/z5yt8mz  Co-authored with Bruce Taylor

“The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO,” August 2012,  http://tinyurl.com/z8y8bym

“Project Management Communications Bible,” June 2008 http://tinyurl.com/j2sn5bd  Co-authored with Bruce Taylor

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