Project Management Chronicles: Be the Expo

Imagine this scenario at your favorite popular and busy eatery:

A diner informs the server that their order has been undercooked and that their side is not what they ordered; the overachieving, overburdened and busy server returns to the kitchen with the dish and requests a re-fire of the dish to more than one of a number of cooks in the kitchen; all of which are told or hear different interpretations of the diner’s original wishes.

Confusion ensues amongst the cooks as to who’s cooking the dish, what temperature it should be cooked to, and what side dish the diner actually wanted, etc. All ultimately leading to a frustrated kitchen staff, wasted time & product, and, likely, an unsatisfied diner.

What a mess! There is a single point of failure at the heart of this scenario: a lack of working process, along with someone to manage and maintain that working process.

Enter the expediter, or expo.

It is the expo’s role to serve as the clear line of communication between the servers and the kitchen staff, identify any subpar or incorrect orders before they are served and maintain that the orders are both cooked and delivered on time.

It’s not expected that the expo will instruct the kitchen staff on how to cook a sous-vide egg or an egg soufflé, nor is it expected that he can anticipate the diner’s tastes before they’ve ordered. A good expo does, however, know how to identify the difference between the two types of eggs and what they should look like when they’re finished. They also understand the menu intimately enough to suggest a slightly different order, if it’s in the best interest of the diner.

Enter the project manager, or PM.

Ideally, a PM should operate much like the expo: they maintain clear communication amongst the developers and the end client, provide a level of quality control w/both the project budget and the client’s best interests in mind, all the while ensuring that the project development is on track and provided to the end client on time.

Adopting this approach won’t promise your projects' success. However, taking the care to understand and identify both the developers’ and end clients’ expectations, maintaining the budget and timeline, will lay the foundation for a satisfied client, development team, and, most probably, a successful project.

Remember project managers: Be the expo!

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