Manage Like an Italian Nonna

I have written in the past about the similarities between good management and Italian food.

Today let’s elaborate on how to make this happen.

“Nonna” is Italian for grandmother, and it is typical for people to use their “Nonna”‘s classic recipe for whatever they are cooking – the previously mentioned secret ingredient or special step.

In management I’m not so interested in the “secret ingredient” – at least for today’s subject – as I am the fact of having different ways of achieving a similar outcome.

Line up your ingredients

In the kitchen, the first step is always to line up your ingredients. Have a list of everything you need for this recipe, then take all those ingredients out of the cupboards and stack them together.

This is to help ensure you have everything you need, but also to consider your variations. Once all the ingredients are laid out you can consider quantities, pairings, balance of freshness of your ingredients, and more.

Do the same with your business resources.

Run a quick audit, see where you have more than you expected and less than you expected.

Most importantly: consider your people. This is where you look beyond what is on paper. Your team of people may have similar skill sets, but they will have different personalities. Let them use those differences to their own advantage.

State the goal

If you are making a carbonara dish, you know you need pasta, eggs, parmesan and pancetta. How those are combined, in what order, using which pan, will change greatly from one kitchen to the next.

Knowing what you are cooking – what the final result must be – is essential to good management in this style. A clear statement of the goals and standards of behavior allows your people to use those individual strengths and still work towards the desired outcome.

This subjectivity applies to the manager as well: don’t be afraid to use your favorite tools, or mix up the steps in the way you deem fit. Learn the essentials, focus on the outcome and within that use your own experience and ideas to make things happen.

Manage at a distance

Allow your ingredients to interact, sizzle and sauté to their best combined strengths. Enjoy the successful outcomes.


For this system to work, you must have a strong value statement and well defined goals. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we tackle precisely those two subjects.