Part of my week is spent making sundaes at an old fashion drive-in in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It’s a 65-year old custard shop in a state known for frozen custard. Surprisingly, I find that making sundaes is a lot like making a business plan and managing a project. So let’s start from the beginning.
First, you need a container to hold the sundae. This is representative of the scope of your project. In business terms, scope defines the shape of the project or its boundaries. Is your scope focused and narrowed like a large sundae glass, or is it wide and flatter like the smaller ones. It is the container that keeps stuff from spilling out all over the place (which we call “scope creep” in project management). A project that is not well defined and controlled will often result in scope creep, which is wasted resources in both a business standpoint, as well as in a custard sundae way.
Let’s start building our sundae now. The first thing we do is to add a little topping to the bottom of our glass. It is important to have just the right about of topping. Too little, and you can have a gap of air in sundae. Too much, and you can have a melted mess of custard at the bottom that works its way up throughout the rest of the sundae. The topping is the foundation of our soon to be masterpiece of custard confection. Therefore this foundation is important, because we build the rest of the sundae on top of it. This importance is true in project management as well. The foundation represents the starting point of your project or its purpose. You need a statement that is just large enough to build upon. Too little, and you risk have requirements gaps that are not fulfilled. Too much, and you can have an awful mess that resonates throughout the rest of your project.
The next step is putting in your custard. This is the body of the sundae. It builds on the foundation and gives a place to put your toppings on. If “the toppings” represents a solution or endpoint of a project, then the custard is the brainstorming and planning that goes into getting to that solution. In sundae making, it is possible to mix flavors of custard here—vanilla on bottom with chocolate on top for example. But I find that keeping the custard consistent is usually always the best practice. Avoid switching to a different brainstorming technique halfway in your project.
And you may also feel compelled to get really fancy here by doing something like layered toppings (where topping is sandwiched between layers of custard). Often you set yourself up for a very ugly looking dessert by doing this. The same is true from a project management standpoint. It is possible to have a bunch of fancy solutions to different problems. And you may feel compelled to put it all into one project. But like a layered sundae, you’ll end up with too many things competing for limited resources, which often increases your chances for scope creep, with everything melting over the top of the glass.
Now let’s get to the toppings. As stated previously, this represents the solution or endpoint of our project. This is often what end-user experiences first. In some cases, it is the only thing that the end-user will taste. If the topping isn’t right, they surely won’t bother to continue down your sundae. In my sundaes, I often incorporate the foundation topping back into the top. For example, if the customer orders a turtle sundae, I use caramel and fudge in the foundation, and use caramel and fudge in the topping (along with salted, roasted pecans). This is a good model for project management as well. The solution must reflect the foundation statement. Again it is important not to go overboard on the solution. Like a sundae, too much topping will cause the sundae to spill over. And like a sundae, if you wait too long to present your solution to the end-user, the sundae could melt and become a useless mess.
For most, this is where the sundae process ends. But there is another step that I feel adds benefit. It is the “added topping” phase. This is the whipped cream and cherry on top of the custard sundae that is used to make the sundae more presentable. In project planning, this is like the presentation phase or the roll out. You do this part right, and you make the project or sundae that much more presentable and exciting to the end-user.
For Paul’s turtle sundae making tutorial click here