The show our group selected was Hell’s Kitchen - season 3, episode 1. In this show there were two teams, the red team and the blue team. The red team consisted of 6 women. We chose the blue team that consisted of 6 men: Brad, Vinnie, Josh, Rock, Eddie, and Aaron. The objective of this team was to prepare a menu of fifteen items with over 300 ingredients and all the items must satisfy the restaurant customers and be made according to Chef Ramsey’s strict criteria. Each member’s goal was to win the round within the team (collective goal) for the short term and be the overall outstanding chef to win the game (individual goal). They operated in a luxurious kitchen inside a high-class restaurant under a very stressful environment, with the presence of TV cameras and under the pressure made by the chef Ramsey. The blue team faced high emotional pressure to perform well in a limited time frame and knowing that millions of viewers would be watching them at home contributed to the stressful environment of Hell’s Kitchen.
Our group’s discussion after watching the show provided some new insights on our thoughts of the team and members. When we shared our impressions of the team we had a very similar view believing the group was young, energetic, and motivated to win. We differed whether they were a disciplined team or not. As for the members, our group has, of course, a lot more evidence to support our impressions about the members who had more time on TV. For instance, regarding Aaron and Rock (they had more time on TV) we agreed they had totally different personalities. Aaron seemed to have low self-esteem and difficulties to perform under pressure whereas Rock seemed to be very confident, honest and task oriented. We disagree if Aaron had a low Emotional Quotient. Regarding Brad (who had less time on TV), some of us believed he was the leader of the group by motivating the others to work and assigning tasks to the others, while others thought he failed to appear at difficult moments and to re-organize the team. Considering Vinnie (who also had limited time on TV) we found evidence that he behaved passively and not responsible, blaming external factors when something went wrong. Josh also had very little time on TV and our impression is that he looked shy but also very direct in his communication. Eddie was one of the members with less time on TV and looked a calm and submissive person, according to our analysis.
The objective of the team seemed obvious and our group shared similar ideas that the Blue team wanted to best serve the restaurant clients in order to win against the rival team (red team) and consequently stay on the show. The rules of Hell’s Kitchen are that the best performer of the losing team has to nominate 2 people to be sent home from his or her team. Chef Ramsey makes the final decision of who goes home. We had disagreements on the degree on motivation the team showed while performing their group tasks. The blue team worked as a team by sharing a common goal that included sharing the reward of winning, having complementary skills, containing some degree of interdependence, and sharing the responsibilities of self-management. Regarding their characteristics, they shared the common traits that they were all men who cooked for a living in America. However, each member had a different personality, three different ethnicities and different expertise within cooking. Our group had a disagreement within the context of their communication. Some of us believed they shared a formal communication while others believed they talked informally. Both instances have evidence to support their claim. Our group agreed that the members were very respectful to each other and to Chef Ramsey. When the group addressed Chef Ramsey, they seemed very formal, specifically calling him “Sir”.
After discussing team blue’s strengths and weakness we discovered some different perspectives. We agreed that the group had a strength that they could quickly divide up tasks and the weakness of not being able to perform well under pressure. However, we disagreed on whether the team member’s different personalities were a strength or weakness.
To form the initial impressions of the group, members and dynamics, we as a group focused less on the words being communicated and paid more attention to the non-verbal aspects of communication. We took some insights about the way they dressed at the beginning of the episode, for example Aaron’s cowboy hat gave us the impression he wanted to get attention. The players’ body language as well as emotional expression revealed a lot of information, mainly about self-confidence, their mood, their resistance to pressure and motivation. Also, how each player stood and acted as Chef Ramsey’s critiqued their original dish made a crucial first impression. For instance, Vinnie revealed a sarcastic non-verbal reaction to chef’s Ramsey criticism. Another example was when Aaron started crying and walked out of the kitchen after he failed in an individual task.
The vocabulary they used and their tone of voice also revealed a lot about their education, their self-confidence and their culinary expertise. We also took some insights about their interaction within the team. Before they started cooking the group rallied each other and exclaimed, “go blue!” This excitement revealed there were some members trying to motivate others and bringing team chemistry. Also, the team looked quite disciplined, quickly reacting to Brad’s requests and also to Chef Ramsey demands. Nevertheless, during the task, we saw evidence of non-coordination and maybe lack of leadership and communication. However, some members took initiative to help each other and there was always a positive reaction, which was an obvious problem for the red team. After the task, interactions continued to happen as we observed Rock subtly held back Vinnie by touching him on the back when Vinnie snapped back at Chef Ramsey.
There were very few examples of prejudice or discrimination on the show and the prejudices observed were very subtle. Eddie has a certain disease that makes him appear younger than he really is. When Eddie first encountered Chef Ramsey, Ramsey rudely asked, “How old are you?” Another subtle instance of stereotyping appeared when Chef Ramsey called Aaron in a provocative way an “Asian cowboy” when Aaron entered wearing a cowboy hat. There was also a categorization when chef Ramsey divided the group into a sub-group of 6 men and a sub-group of 6 women.
As a group we observed several strengths and weakness of team blue. As a strength, team blue was able to split tasks between them without any objections as demonstrated when Brad divided the roles. The team was also motivated to perform well which can be seen when they encouraged each other. They demonstrated having complementary skills, mainly due to their different cooking expertise. However, when Brad was busy, there seemed to be a lack of communication. Also, there was a lack of organization that was evident when they ran out of the existing ingredients. Finally, team blue showed a lack of team identity that was apparent when Aaron walked away upset and no one on the team went to talk to him and console him.
Lack of communication seemed to be the biggest weakness observed. The group members had little interaction with each other before they started cooking and needed to deal with complicated tasks. Thus without knowing each others background and personality beforehand, the verbal communication would be the most direct and easiest solution to best illustrate the mindset of the members and the fastest way to build team chemistry. The team did well dividing up the jobs and roles at the beginning and everyone followed (which was a main problem of the red team). If the members among the Blue team could further enhance the communication, existing problems could have went much more smoothly. For example, Vinnie should have switched roles with Brad sooner instead there was a lack of communication/organization and that only happened when Chef Ramsey decided to force the switch. Also, as food was getting low, someone on the blue team should have communicated this information before it was too late.
List of ideas to improve performance:
· Set time limit for them to compromise their own role.
· Sub-group system was set to group the related “roles” e.g. dessert ingredients’ gatherer and dessert maker, or division into different areas like: pasta cooker, fish cooker, meat cooker, etc. to enhance the whole line communication.
· Pick a leader since the beginning
· Fix specific and maybe written rules for the all team working
· Make each member talk about his best strengths and weaknesses to the coordinator.
· Teach how to divide their tasks according to their best strengths and weaknesses (the thing only one person knows how to do is assigned to that person by the leader)
· Schedule periodic meetings for example before and after (to debrief about the problems) and improve communication
· Create ways of communication (example a board) where they can see the most important features about the kitchen (e.g. number of ingredients left in alphabetical, or other, order)
· Divide roles into team-players roles: motivator, time keeper, coordinator, internal communicator, external communicator, etc.
· Try to discuss and reach a consensus about the best way to cook each dish, in advance.
· Define difficult and achievable goals for every member according to their expertise and tasks that need to be done
· Create a rewarding system and a penalty one (wash dishes if cook badly)
· Talk about cultural differences and personalities traits
· Create a rotation system so that they experience the difficulties of all tasks in the kitchen
· Create a coaching system, where better members can give advice members that need assistance
· Enhance team identity by talking about the common goals and about what they have in common before the task
Our group came up with several suggestions and a strategy the blue team should do to improve their performance. First of all, there should have a discussion about each member’s strength and weakness in cooking before they started. That would avoid problems they faced in organizing the work that needed to be done, and would assign roles that best suited their individual and group strengths. Also, the team should schedule periodic meetings for example before and after the task to debrief their current problems and improve communication issues. Creating forms of communication during the task such a board where they can see the most important information about the kitchen like how much ingredients are left would increase their success. At last we agreed that the team should divide roles into team player roles so each member knows where they stand (e.g. motivator, time-keeper, coordinator, etc.).