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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Management Lessons from Challah & Wine

Photo credit: Tim Sackton/Flickr

The traditional Shabbos meal begins with wine and challah. Although they taste good, I never really understood why we bothered. 

* On the traditional deep purple wine, or grape juice often used in its stead. When you combine them with the also-traditional white tablecloth, get ready for someone to spill - and stains that never come out.

* Re: challah, it literally takes forever to make. Mix, knead, rise, punch down; rise, bake; wash everything. 

You could use white wine, or clear sparkling peach grape juice. You could buy the challah. A lot of people do that. But why do so many bother to do things the old fashioned way?

So what about this.

* What if the point of the grape juice is the stain?

* What if the challah exists for the slow nature of making it?

Here's what I mean. 

When you have an organization full of people, those people are going to be "imperfect." The systems will frequently be "broken." The surrounding environment will never be "optimal."

And in that broken-ness is an opportunity. 

Instead of striving for an impossible robotic perfection that we know can never exist and that we wouldn't want to live in, maybe we can just celebrate being human.

Instead of worrying about when the grape juice will spill, maybe we should spill it first. And then we can relax, remove all the false expectations, and go about achieving things that can really be achieved.

About the challah.

Some people take an entire week to prepare the Shabbos meal, not just the opening bread. I know of one person specifically. Literally, on Sunday, she wakes up and starts shopping and cooking for Friday night.

One time we went to her home to share in a Jewish holiday celebration, for Purim. It was warm, and lovely, and fun. Because she really had taken the time to focus on what is important to her, in her life - bringing people together to celebrate G-d.

That's the management lesson of challah: to focus on people, the most important part of the organization, some would say the entire organization - by taking the necessary time.

Managers don't have to believe in G-d. 

But it is good to put one's work in context.

Technology, budget, process reengineering are great. But they're also gravy.

At the end of the day, every workplace is about human beings.

The job of a manager is to harness their strengths, by optimizing the culture.

_____

Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government.