James Governor's Monkchips

On guard rails, observability, and owning your Michelin star

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Tonight at dinner we had a choice – grab a quick bite in the bar at the Intercontinental in San Francisco, or have a meal in the adjoining restaurant, Luce. Fintan said Luce has a Michelin star, and privilege kicked in. When you’re doing a lot of travelling, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a lovely experience that’s easy. The meal was great. Our server, James, was funny and knowledgeable – he suggested great pairings for our courses and wines.

After dinner, James asked if we wanted dessert. We thought we didn’t, but when he suggested a pavlova and lime curd, my attention was piqued. Gluten free, citrus meringue and berries, with a glass of sweet wine? Yes please.

Halfway through the dessert and James joined us. He looked down, puzzled. What. Is. That?

I don’t know, I said, and tried to work out what the orange-looking sorbet on the plate was. Slight shrug – “not sure, it doesn’t really taste of mango”.

Sorry, said James, let me fix that for you, and took the plate away. Really? We called after him not to worry about it. Then he came back, with a plate without the sorbet and. Oh. My. Goodness. Suddenly the taste of the curd jumped out. Incredible.

Turns out the normal pastry chef is out on maternity leave, and the replacement had erred slightly from the dish laid down by the head chef. Boom! The sorbet messed things up. The experience left me thinking about architectural standards, guard rails, and observability. To be honest we wouldn’t have explicitly noticed that things weren’t quite right.

“[shrug], It’s tasty enough. it’s a little cold.”

Take away the sorbet however (it was mandarin apparently) and the dish was a revelation. James provided the monitoring. We didn’t know our user experience was sub-optimal until he pointed it out. The fact is the quality of meal was directly affected by close monitoring and communication with the end user. Have an opinionated platform, monitor the actual experience, and deal with failure gracefully (this was James’ key point when I told him I might write the experience up).

You don’t get a Michelin star without a strong opinion, empathy and a laser focus on customer experience. That’s how we need to think about software and user experience.



disclosure: Pivotal is a client and paid for T&E to Spring One Platform.


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