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Executing Projects Can Be Like Baking a Pie

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After working on countless projects, it’s easy to spot patterns that have the potential to create challenges. One of my favorite has to do with our nearly incurable desire to be nosy. We like to hover in the kitchen, sample the ingredients, peek in the oven, and taste before serving. Ask any cook: this is not helpful.

David Mamet wrote in his play Boston Marriage “We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” If only that was really case. Guests can get stressed out waiting for the pie as it slowly smells more and more delectable. This can stress out the cook, as he or she doesn’t want to disappoint, but certainly doesn’t want too many cooks fiddling about and messing up the dessert masterpiece. The entire process can be one snowball of stress, spiraling out of control until no one is able to properly enjoy the process or the result. And that’s never good (no matter how much ice cream you put on the side).

That’s why I like to tell people that executing complex projects is a little like making a pie. We need to talk up front to decide your preferences and dietary requirements, but the work of prepping, chopping, folding, and baking is best done by chefs, not by guests. You can watch and we can teach you how, but please be careful not to get in the way.

Here is a plain and simple truth about pie making and project management: Every time you open the oven to peek, you only delay the hour when dessert will be served ready. You’re more likely to burn yourself than learn anything new.

consulting and baking

© Flickr user simplyla

This is hard advice to take. Maybe you’ve never had this variety and you want a closer look. Maybe your tummy rumbles with hunger and you want to ensure that feeding time is fast approaching. Maybe the pie smells a little funny and you are doubting the chef. When customers place an order, it’s difficult to wait patiently. Yet, doing so is the most efficient method for getting the best possible dessert.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that uncooked pie is not pie! Freshly rolled crust may be dripping with salmonella. Newly-basted crust does not yet possess its promised glaze and texture. Not-yet-pie does not taste like pie, so trying a piece only detracts from the final experience.

Good pie requires an expert chef, quality ingredients and time to focus. Keep this mantra in mind when clients and consultants are working together (or managers are expecting deliverables from members of their team.) The pie is STILL baking. Nagging about status, asking for early samples, wandering around in the kitchen, or opening the oven can only endanger the process.

Let the chef work and allow the pie to cook. If the dish is a flop, there’s always another chance or another kitchen. The best desserts are worth trusting and waiting for.

We’ve talked countless times on this blog about allowing workers to focus on their expertise uninhibited by outside factors. If employees can’t be trusted, then maybe you have the wrong employees. If you can’t trust any of your employees, then the problem might lie with you.

Want more information on how to apply these principles to your organization? We’re here to help! Contact the business improvement team at AccelaWork today and we’ll get you moving in the right direction.

(If this post did nothing more than make you hungry for pie, feel free to try out this tried and true recipe for Dutch apple pie. Just be sure to wait until cooking is complete before you try it!)

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
What would happen if instead of repeating the claim, we all took 30s to search the web and get more context or even see if it’s true? - 8 hours ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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