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Caspar Eisengarten und Benjamin Badorrek von IKOR
Caspar Eisengarten (left) and Benjamin Badorrek: "Whether it's pretzel baking or project management - it takes a team to leverage the maximum potential and reduce classic start-up difficulties."

– Project Excellence

What project management services and the art of "Pretzel baking" have in common


It all depends on the team and the way it works

At first glance, project management and "pretzel baking" have few similarities. Nevertheless, some parallels can be drawn. As in baking, preparation is a key element in project management. Classic key performance indicators such as budget, time and resources form the "ground mass". As with a challenging integration project, you need more "ingredients." Especially in large-scale projects, one individual alone cannot manage the project. A project office is required. In projects it clears the administrative support and project controlling, thus creating the necessary freedom for goal-oriented project management.

Use key factors in the project

Particularly critical in project management is the transition from preliminary investigation to the actual implementation phase. That is why transition phases in a project are not to be understood as a secondary task, but as one of the main tasks with a high degree of attention.

In addition to the classic key performance indicators, promising project management consists above all of good teamwork. The decisive factor is not only who is part of the team and how it works together, but also how it communicates within the framework of the project. Particularly in the case of technically demanding integration projects, such as those that are common in insurance companies, the essentials can quickly fade into the background in the heat of the moment. Above all, project work means interacting with people while developing and implementing solutions together. This is where the project office can help with efficient communication structures and project guidelines (e.g., organizing dailies as well as creating communication matrices or newsletters) as a "recipe " for the project structure.

It must be clear to each and every member of the project team why a particular project is being carried out as well as the associated corporate goals that the project is pursuing. Everyone involved should strongly identify with the project goals, if possible. But how do you succeed in getting the central project message across? A good way is a proper kick-off meeting as a starting point.

Caspar Eisengarten von IKOR

Caspar Eisengarten

is Senior Business Consultant Project Excellence at IKOR

“Superior project management must ensure that the team composition is right.“

Pull in structures at an early stage

Anyone who has ever experienced a project start knows that it does not always go smoothly. Many projects frequently start unstructured and chaotic. While a certain period of transition to identify content, roles and responsibilities, is normal while the project team is still in the discovery phase, nevertheless, confusion can be kept to a minimum.

However, this does not happen on its own. Project management and its core team must be prepared for this moment - just as a baker does not throw ingredients together at random. Because then neither fluffy dough nor tasty pastries would result. The analogy to the bakery picture is impressively simple in project management: What constitutes the patience of the baker; preparing dough the day before, letting it rise and rest again, then shaping and baking pretzels, corresponds in a figurative sense to the technical expertise and communication know-how of project management. The Project-Office creates framework conditions, so that all the necessary processes required for the project are in place and set up smoothly. This ensures that all pretzels are actually baked in the desired time and quality. And it ensures that no baked goods get lost in the turmoil of everyday project work. This includes not only tracking daily tasks, but also monitoring overall progress. This is done in a format that makes the status clear and transparent in a quick and understandable way.

Pay attention to a functioning core team

Project staff are undoubtedly the most important resource of any project. And the success of projects is linked to their interaction. Superior project management must therefore ensure that the team composition is right.

Communication is one of the linchpins here. Additionally, infrastructure is needed: in particular technical equipment, workstations, and physical and/or virtual meeting rooms. Reserving a meeting room or ordering monitors is more like child's play. The real difficulty lies in building up a 50-person project team within a very short time and organizing sufficient workstations, WLAN keys, system access, travel plans and, if necessary, overnight accommodations for the following weeks and months.

This can only be achieved with the help of robust and experienced project support that knows what needs to be done here to efficiently support and organize the project launch. It uses checklists and task tracking, among other things. This allows every detail to be planned and tracked. This sounds more banal than it is: In practice, this rarely works smoothly. The project office therefore ensures that no ingredients are forgotten and that everything is available in sufficient quantities in a timely manner.

Benjamin Badorrek

is Cargo Lead and Manager Project Excellence at IKOR

“Empowering people to do the right thing.“

Badorrek Benjamin von IKOR

Step into implementation: plan and execute the kick-off

Project management opens the kick-off as an essential milestone of the implementation phase. After the project preparation phase, things really get going: The entire project team is usually assembled for the first time and is welcomed by the project managers. The management team then gets everyone involved excited about the task ahead. Using a prepared agenda, managers guide the team through the startup. To stay in the bakery picture: The dough is kneaded together at an appealing kick-off location.

This can also be done in a virtual environment if teams cannot meet physically in the real world. Get-to-know-you formats help team members "get to know each other." Above all, they can already comprehensively clarify the most important project issues at the time of the kick-off:

• Team members: Who is in this project?
• Expectations of the participants: What do we want to achieve today?
• Project presentation: What has happened so far? What are we working towards?
• Cooperation model: How do we cooperate?
• Role clarification: Who does/is responsible for what?
• First implementation steps: How do the following weeks shape up?
• Project methodology: How do we work? Agile, classic or hybrid?
• Project plan: How is the overall process structured?
• Outlook: What happens tomorrow, what happens next week?

The project outlines then take shape in the "project bakery" - almost as if the dough were rising. At least after the kick-off, it is clear which documents (such as instructions or manuals) are missing or which other key points need clarification so that the project structure and form can take shape “pretzel-like.”

Five points that should come out of the kick-off

  1. The team knows each other by name, regarding tasks and responsibilities.
  2. The project goal is known and understood by all team members.
  3. It is clear to the team HOW they work together in relation to the processes.
  4. Everyone knows WHAT is required of them and WHEN.
  5. The foundation has been laid for the necessary team spirit and the motivation for the upcoming project is already stirred up.

While the baker pulls golden-brown, crispy pretzels out of the oven and brings them to the sales floor, the project office makes sure that the project team can work smoothly. Above all, all the information must be reliably compiled. In addition, the project office ensures that project-related processes are communicated and transparent. These processes must be maintained and, as needed, adapted. Similar to baking pretzels, it is not enough to develop a recipe once and hope that it will never have to be tweaked again. Optimization is always important when things can be done better or more simply.

Willingness to learn and assume responsibility are often underestimated

It is always about empowering people to do the right thing. This requires two essential, often underestimated skills; Willingness to learn and taking responsibility! At first glance, this may seem more understandable for a pretzel baker whose product may have failed in the oven than for a Project Manager. However, in both industries - bakery and project management - the skills required are similar: responsibility for one's own learning must be intrinsic; each takes personal responsibility here. In a project team, this relates to the ability to learn together as a team, as well as the individual ability to learn, including taking responsibility. Just like in a bakery, good recipes should be used wisely so that better products are created quickly.

Conclusion: The chances of success can be increased right at the start of the project

Pretzel baking and project management, as different as these disciplines may seem, are both defined by key moments. This comparison in the review of a project was created to visualize elements from project management and to keep the fun in projects high. Such images and comparisons really do determine overall success. Above all, the team is the "main ingredient" in project management and must get off to a good start and coordinate perfectly. Only in this way can it enter the actual project phases with as much momentum as possible. This is the only way to maximize its potential and to reduce classic teething problems. This "tastes" with certainty to all stakeholders, regardless of whether they enjoy pretzels or have commissioned a complex and at the same time promising business project.

Contact Person

Caspar Eisengarten von IKOR

Caspar Eisengarten

Senior Business Consultant
Dock Project Excellence
+49 40 8199442-0

Badorrek Benjamin von IKOR

Benjamin Badorrek

Cargo Lead und Manager Project Excellence
Dock Project Excellence
+49 40 8199442-0

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