LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
Five to seven minutes, that is how long the original French fry remained crispy. It all started in the late 1600s, when poor Belgian villagers added potatoes to their fish fries. During WWI, US soldiers stationed in Belgium nicknamed the fried potatoes after the official language of the Belgian army– French.1 By the 1950s, Americans start eating fries in their cars at drive-ins. 2 American drive thrus emerged in the 1960 and 70s, along with the need for car cupholders and a crispier French fry.2 How different is your “drive thru ritual” from the description below?
Drive Thru Ritual: All passengers, in unison, bark customized orders at the driver who is navigating a maze of illuminated signs and painted arrows. Cup holders are prepared by removing sunglasses and packs of gum. Credit cards and correct change are squirreled away while juggling multiple bags with cryptic markings written in grease pencil. The weight of each bag is assessed. If a bag seems too light, the emergency parking-break is set, and the order is corrected. At least one French fry is sampled, even at the risk of sustaining a second-degree burn.
What does the drive thru experience remind us about project management?
- Measured Commitment: No one enters a drive thru without a commitment, just as no one commits to a lengthy project without deep consideration. The length of the drive thru line is always assessed because the driver balances the estimated time with the value of return. Similarly, projects should be thoroughly evaluated before they are added to the portfolio. Leaders must reevaluate the entire portfolio based on the current outlook.
- Refined Expectations: No one expects a 4-star meal from a fast food bag, just as no one expects high-value project deliverables from a low investment in team members. Competing priorities force leaders to consider opportunity costs because only so much can be done with a finite team. Leaders must help project members navigate tasks that seem to demand more attention but are not critical to the most important efforts.
- Quality Assurance: No one inspects the accuracy of a take-out order once at home, just as no one inspects the quality of a project after it’s complete. Having a working definition of good quality is critical at the onset of each effort. It’s appropriate to refine requirements as more is learned. Leaders know quality deliverables develop because they are inspected regularly.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that, Stealth, an invisible and unflavored coating, was added to fries to extend crispiness up to 12 to 15 minutes giving the driver time to get crispy fries home.2 With the advent of fast food delivery, fries need to stay crispy up to 45 minutes.2 …And after “two years of tinkering with the formula,” they do! The crispy French fry has been centuries in the making, no doubt due to measured commitment, refined expectations, and quality assurance.
Note: It is estimated that in the 2020s, the Online Food Delivery segment will see revenue exceeding $100,000,000,000 USD and will continue to grow almost 10% percent a year.3 Sources: 1 Wonderopolis, 2 NPR’s Planet Money Podcast (Episode 946: Fries Of The Future, 21 minutes), 3 Statista.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.