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Long time readers of this blog will know that I occasionally like to draw lessons from other domains to project management. I am a foodie and pizza is one of my long-standing favorite foods. So I thought it would be interesting to see if there were parallels which could be made between projects and pizza!

There’s more than one way to make it

If you like your pizzas to have more than just cheese as a topping do you prefer your toppings to be below the cheese or on top of the cheese? With the former method the cheese locks in the toppings so they are less likely to fall off when you eat a slice whereas with the latter you have a better opportunity to grab the slices you’d like if there are certain toppings you want more or less of.

With projects, sometimes a deterministic life cycle is appropriate whereas other times an adaptive life cycle would make sense. Push-based communication methods work in certain situations whereas pull-based approaches are suitable in others. Context counts.

It’s all about the crust

Those who view a pizza crust as merely a glorified plate for a bunch of toppings are missing the point – the crust makes the pizza. Yes, you can make your sauce from scratch and use the highest quality toppings but without a crust that is equally good, the pizza won’t be great.

When I teach project management fundamentals classes, I ask learners to identify some root causes for troubled projects and then ask them when those issues might have been prevented. In the majority of cases, they identify the beginning of the project as the best opportunity to do things right. Just as the crust is the foundation for a great pizza, how we kick off and initiate our projects will often determine how successful we are at the end.

There are pros and cons to outsourcing

Some people prefer to order their pizzas fully cooked from restaurants whereas others prefer to get them prepared externally but will cook them at home. Some like to buy the crust and sauce and then add their own toppings whereas others will make everything from scratch. Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. If we like wood-fired pizza but don’t have a wood-fired oven or grill at home, getting our pizzas from restaurants might be our only option.

The same holds true for projects. If a company has the necessary skills and capacity, they can choose to do it all in-house. But if they have other higher priority work or must outsource some or all of the scope to a third-party it will cost more and they might not always get what they hoped for.

For those of us who see project management as our calling and not just a job, I’ll close with this quote from Bill Murray: “Unless you are a pizza, the answer is yes, I can live without you.

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