Discover more from The Project Management Blueprint
A Piece of (Professional) Cake
Every project can be planned via the six questions…
A few weeks ago, I had a zoom call with a client. During the discussion, I was accused of turning everything I touch into a project, complete with detailed plans and pre-defined success criteria. The client said, “You professional project managers think everything is just another project. Something to be planned and organized. I bet if I asked you to bake a cake, you’d want to first create a written project execution plan, right? You agree that would be absurd, right?”
Well, no, I replied. It wouldn’t be absurd at all. Sure, if it were just me baking a cake for myself, a PEP would be overkill. But imagine that you hired me to bake that cake, I said. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to ensure what I was going to create would meet your needs, schedule, budget, and do so with minimal risk, right? In fact, what would be absurd is to not have a written PEP that we could both agree to. And to create that PEP, I’d begin with the six project planning question framework:
Who is this project for—and why? Is the cake for you to eat yourself for pure gustatory purposes? Or maybe the cake is for your spouse’s birthday? Or a child’s? Or some other reason. We would always start by addressing this fundamental why or aim…
Which would lead us to the second question: What solves the why? What kind of cake would meet the fundamental objectives of the project? A big chocolate cake, a medium-sized carrot cake, or maybe a dozen small strawberry cupcakes? Knowing who the stakeholders are, and why they want the cake, would lead us to choosing the best cake to meet that need….
Which would bring us to the third question: How are we going to create the cake? Created from a recipe and scratch ingredients? Or maybe via a store-bought cake mix? Or perhaps we’ll hire a chef to help us? Or maybe just go to a bakery and buy a pre-made cake? And then, after we decide on an acquisitions approach….
Would lead us to the fourth question: How long will it take us to create the cake? And what steps are required to do so? Understanding the basic schedule…
Would allow us to determine: How much will it cost to create the cake to this schedule? And addressing this….
Would let us address the sixth and final question: What risks does the chosen approach present, and what can we do about reducing or eliminating those threats? If our approach is to bake the cake from scratch, what could go wrong? What about a cake mix? Can we get some help to guide us through the process? Do we have enough time in the schedule to re-bake the cake if something goes wrong? And so forth.
So, I thought, is this really absurd? No, I don’t think so. If you’re hiring me to manage the baking of a cake or the design of a widget or the construction of a house or a project to send humans to Mars, you, the client, should always know exactly what the plan is. And so should I, the project manager. It may be “just” a cake, but to me (and to you, the client), it’s also a project that requires thoughtful planning and careful execution. It’s called being a professional project manager. Piece of cake, right?