Breaking Eggs?

How a Pixar Classic Demonstrates Effective Business

I often hear the phrase in business and mafia movies, “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.” The phrase implies that in order to correct mistakes, you must sacrifice the people who (supposedly) made them.

Or a company or department decides to reorganize to solve some problems, and, like a grown-up game of musical chairs, once the music stops (budget deadlines arrive), some people will end up without a chair, even loyal employees with stellar performance records.

I think this is 1) a scare tactic to keep people in line to remind them that they are not indispensable, and 2) a short-sighted Band-Aid solution that will cause the same problems to keep rearing their ugly heads, or even create new ones.

Sometimes difficult decisions must be made. But habitually “breaking eggs” is the mark of ineffective leadership that wastes company time and resources, lowers morale, and leaves managers scratching their heads wondering where all the good loyal workers have gone.

Here’s what you might think is bizarre example of how problems can be effectively fixed without sacrificing good “eggs”.

In the Pixar classic animated film, “Ratatouille”, hapless garbage boy Alfredo Linguini accidentally fouls up a soup in a former five-star Parisian restaurant. Remy, a rat who is strangely gifted with culinary skills, spots the mistake immediately.

Remy could have just knocked over the pot of soup and made a mess of the kitchen and disrupted the kitchen staff’s production process. But at least the customers would not have to be subjected to that horrible soup. 

Instead, Remy figured out how to fix the soup. Furthermore, he and Linguini started working as a team, playing off each other’s skills  — Remy’s culinary skills and Linguini’s skills of having a human form. Linguini may not have initially possessed the cooking skills, but he was earnest.

While it was soup instead of eggs, it’s a good example of how a good leader, like a good chef, knows how to work with his or her resources to resolve problems without making a wasteful mess.