The one thing that I stress in my kitchen, the most important aspect of service, is talk. Talkity, talk, talk, talk. Proper communication is crucial in a commercial kitchen. It's also a daily struggle. I have to constantly remind the staff how important it is for our success.
When someone gets stressed and really busy there is a tendency to shut down verbally in order to focus. But that is the opposite of whats needed in a busy kitchen. If I have a cook with a grill full of meat I don't want the salad cook to fire his chopped salad or fried green tomatoes until the last possible minute. And these guys wouldn't even know to cook that food unless I called out the checks to them.
But it goes further than that. Safety is very important in a volatile workplace. We work with knives, fire and boiling liquids. Communication becomes a matter of life and serious injury. When two guys are carrying a 10 gallon pot of 200 degree ketchup, they better be telling those around them they are "behind" or "coming hot!" Anyone who comes in the kitchen and especially on the hot line better be ready to talk.
We have to talk to the Front Of the House occasionally too. Sometimes more than we'd like but nonetheless it can be very important. If I need to 86 an item, I need to let my food runners know and it then becomes their responsibility to communicate that to the rest of the FOH staff. If that line breaks down then there is a possibility of selling an item that we don't have and maybe some awkward service, an upset customer and then a bad tip.
As time has passed with the inevitable ups and downs of life, and lessons learned, I have realized something that was in front of my face for years: communication is the most important part of any relationship. Think about it. Whether it's with a co-worker, spouse, brother, sister, parent, child, teacher, student, police officer, waitress, mechanic, family member, your pet; it doesn't matter. If you don't communicate properly, signals are going to get crossed and the end result won't be good for anyone involved.
As with anything in life, it takes work. And every person/situation requires its own individual touches. It's important to be calm and respectful and most of all, listen. Because that's the most over looked part of communication.
"That which we are capable of feeling, we are capable of saying." - Cervantes