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The Tao of Gordon Ramsay

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I don’t watch much television these days, but one of my guilty pleasures is old episodes of  Kitchen Nightmares. Each episode, through the power of cursing and walking around in dramatic fashion, Gordon Ramsay works to turn around a struggling restaurant.

After a quick look around, Gordon inevitably finds a laundry list of problems — everything from dirty fridges to undercooked food, to terrible service. But there’s one problem that crops up, time and time again: large, unfocused menus.

Frequently, chefs and owners think the surest path to success is to overwhelm their customers with hundreds of options, spanning multiple cuisines. Their menus are confusing, wait staff are overworked, and the kitchen is chaotic. Each time, Gordon has to sit them down and explain the value of doing a handful of dishes well. Often, he ends up cutting their menu in half.

The result? Customers are less confused, wait staff can recommend their favorite dishes, and cooks aren’t forced to run around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to cook everything under the sun.

I’ve started to recognize the problem with large menus at the restaurants I visit. More often than not, it means poor food and service. It’s almost a universal truth.

A similar problem pops up in failing side projects.

Often, developers worry they’ll “blow it” by cutting features from the first version of their product. Driven by fear, and lacking real feedback on their ideas, they delay launching while they add “just one more feature” or spend three days pushing pixels on the home page.  They try to cram their app’s menu full of everything that pops into their head — both figuratively and literally. Then, they wonder why they never seem to launch anything.

Gordon would be disappointed.

In my experience, shipping something half-finished hurts a lot less than never shipping it at all. 

It’s easy to look at someone else’s work and marvel at how polished it is. But remember, every side project could have been better or included more features. Those developers, the ones who consistently ship? They’ve embraced an important idea — at some point; you have to stop. You have to ship.

Until next week,