We all love food. Don’t we? It amazing how a set of raw ingredients come together under the deft hands of a good cook and create culinary magic. There is the choice of ingredients, there is a process, and there is a fair amount of expertise involved.

Project management is pretty much like that. You start with an objective in mind, you plan, you get the tools in place, you follow processes and you keep monitoring progress along the way. To keep in line with the cooking parlance, let’s come up with a recipe for a perfect project.

The Ingredients

Business Outcome

If you don’t know what you are making, chances are no one will eat what you have made. Getting an agreement on what is to be achieved at the end of the project is the first, most important step in project management.

Success Metrics

Success as a definition is very subjective. You may think that your version of spaghetti with meatballs is the best in the world but a food critic may rip it apart. Similarly in a project scenario, one needs to get buy-in on a set of metrics that determine the success of the project. The Project team, stakeholders, and customers need to sign off on success metrics before the project starts; that’s bible across the journey.

The Right Team

If you have a plumber, carpenter, and hairdresser helping you with the wedding cake order, then god help you! Having a team with the right skills in place will ensure that the execution phase goes as planned. It’s the people who take the project to its logical conclusion. The PMO can add value by owning project management effectiveness across projects in an organization.

The Best Tools

Try making ice-cream without the chiller. Try baking a cake without an oven. Exactly! Trying to succeed on a project without the right tools is like cooking without fire. Tools enable better planning, financial management, collaboration, scheduling, resource management, monitoring, and reporting. Tools also help integrate projects with other organizational functions such as Finance and Sales. Tools help consolidate project management processes and initiatives across the company and bring teams, stakeholders, and customers on a single platform.

The Culture

To keep producing culinary masterpieces on a consistent basis, you need to enjoy being in the kitchen every day. That’s where culture comes in! Organizations need to create an environment that breeds high performance, collaboration, innovation, and alignment to organizational objectives. Culture is the glue that binds objectives, teams, and tools together to ensure the project is heading towards success.

Mastering the Cook

Knowing how before you start (Process & Quality Excellence)

Ask your grandma how her sauce tastes so divine every time she makes it and she tells you it’s a family secret. That secret is the process – The right amount of ingredients introduced in the right order, cooked for the right amount of time, with the right amount of seasoning. Project success relies heavily on process excellence to orchestrate all efforts towards the achievement of the objective. Prod further and your grandma will also tell you how her sauce has gotten better over the years because she added just a little more salt, cooked it just a little less and used less ripe tomatoes. That’s where the excellence comes in; continuously improving upon what’s already good.

Adding the right ingredients in the right quantity (Monitoring & optimization)

Recipes exist because someone decided that guesswork is not going to cut it in the long run. If you have to make lip-smacking lasagne on a consistent basis, you need to be exact about it. Same goes for project management. Organizations need to have the systems in place to monitor every aspect of the project lifecycle. This helps manage resources more effectively, spot and mitigate risks and control performance levels across the board.

Keep tasting & improvise as needed (Risk Management)

If you toss in all the ingredients and leave it to cook without checking in regularly, there is a good chance, there is going to be no food on the table. Project Managers need to keep monitoring for risks, raise the right flags at the right time with stakeholders & customers and initiate corrective action. It’s very similar to trying to save a cake with too much baking powder. You could either throw it out and start again (which is not feasible with projects) or you could keep adjusting the ingredients until the ratios in the batter even out to the extent of the original recipe.

And finally…ensure the food looks as good as it tastes

In the project management world, it translates to keeping teams, stakeholders and customers on the same page with insightful reports and consistent communication.

In conclusion, all this talk of food and recipes has got us very hungry :). We’re off to grab a bite. Watch out for our next blog!