January 13, 2018

A Qualitative Challenge

I watched the movie Idiocracy recently, which has some interesting social commentary wrapped in a web of silliness. What struck me was that in the dystopian future represented, people had not only lost the ability and knowledge to fix things, they also had lost the will to care that their once great society was crumbling.

It got me thinking. We all know that certain people litter, for example. They either don’t care about having a well kept public space, or they are confident that someone else will clean up after them. Because collectively we seem to prefer well kept public spaces, we spend our tax money on services that do sweep streets and clean sidewalks and generally keep things tidy.

This has something to do with standards. When we keep our standards high we fix broken lights, we properly inspect buildings, we design for beauty and longevity. We do this because some of us are compelled to strive for excellence, whether for financial gain or just a sense of what is proper.

But obviously not everyone cares about the same things. People who are struggling with their basic necessities don’t have the same capacity to care about issues that are not immediately in front of them. High standards require constant vigilance and the energy to exert the necessary influence to achieve those standards.

It is this energy that is on my mind. When people are united in supporting shared standards, goals and practices, they can be easily maintained. But when there are only a few people maintaining high standards and the rest are willing to overlook the constant repair and maintenance that excellence requires, those few people are forced to exert a lot of energy to keep things up to snuff.

As the chef of The Park I see this dance play out every day. We help each other maintain our standards. Just because I set the standards doesn’t mean I have the energy every single day to make sure they are carried out. Other people step in to cover the gaps.

It is easy to see how over time effort, quality and the pursuit of excellence can diminish. The energy to maintain it all can be overwhelming, especially if it all falls on just a few shoulders. It highlights how much of a team effort is required to maintain quality over long periods of time. It’s not something I think of regularly, but thinking on it now I appreciate the near heroic effort of our team in cultivating, supporting, demonstrating and teaching the culture of quality and all the little details and efforts that requires.

Have a great weekend and hope to see you at The Park.

-Chef Josh

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