recipeA while back I watched an online video claiming to show the ultimate grilled cheese recipe. As I watched I was amazed at how bad the recipe was. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with the sandwich you get from the recipe. The problem is the recipe itself.

At several points in the recipe, it is stated “if you can’t find this ingredient use whatever you want.” This is terrible for a recipe because you have just given up any idea of what the final product will be like because you have told the cook the ingredients don’t matter.

I bring this up because a recipe is at its most basic an operations plan. It is the step by step instructions on how to create a specific outcome. Imagine if a manufacturing plant specified that if you could find steel, use whatever you could find. What if your accountant followed the instruction on your taxes that if you don’t have this number, just use something else?

Operation plans need to be specific. You can include alternatives, but even those alternatives need to be well thought out and tested. The whole point of a strong operation plan is to replicate a quality product or experience over and over. You can’t do that if the end user can make whatever substitution she wants.

Be specific and stick to the plan. When you don’t, your customers will notice the difference.