Professional Development Center

The “Easy as Pie” Approach to Project Management

Blog Contributor: Katie Karpinski 

We’ve all been handed some type of project in our lives. Whether it’s helping your son or daughter with their science-fair assignment, handling an extensive task at work, or committing yourself to a new exercise regime, life is built upon starting and completing projects. The scope of tasks we complete is endless, and each one provides its own unique goal, all while introducing unique challenges and opportunities along the way.

While every project may be different, the way we handle projects tends to follow a typical pattern. This pattern includes five essential steps…

1. Initiation (Realizing the need and establishing a goal for the project)

2. Planning (Gathering the resources needed for the project)

3. Execution (Implementing the project)

4. Monitoring and Control (Regulating and analyzing the outputs of the project)

5. Closure (Reviewing project successes and failures)

Let’s use baking a pie as an example.

First, we must determine the need for baking the pie. In this case, we’re baking a pie for our friend’s (let’s call them Chris) birthday. But we don’t just want to bake any pie, we want to bake a pie that we know Chris will enjoy. This is our goal.

Second, we must gather the information and resources we need. For a pie, this includes all recipe ingredients and baking tools, but it would also include information such as Chris’ favorite type of pie, how many people will be at the party (perhaps we will need to make two or three pies), discovering if there are dietary restrictions or allergies, etc. Gathering and properly managing all resources before the start of a project can help make sure things run smoothly later on. There’s nothing worse than starting a pie only to realize you don’t have enough flour left for the crust!

Third, we must actually make the pie. We should have a recipe handy and should follow the instructions closely. However, as is the case with many baking projects, you must be flexible and have a contingency plan. Even the best prepared projects have the potential for mishaps. What if the oven breaks? What if your schedule causes you to push baking back a day? What if the pie burns? Running through these scenarios and their possible solutions ahead of time can help prevent further derailment.

Fourth, we must determine how our pie measures up. After taking it to the party, we’ll want to know if people liked our pie. It’s good to ask specific questions. Was the filling okay? Was the crust fluffy enough? Were the spices evenly balanced? It’s good to gather as much information as possible so we have a comprehensive view of the entire project and not just one element.

Finally, we must take what we’ve learned about our pie baking skills and apply it to our next project. Maybe our crust recipe needs to be tweaked. Maybe the ratio of filling to spice mix wasn’t right. It’s important to take a moment to reflect on what works and what doesn’t work before proceeding to your next project.

Now, you may be thinking “This is all common sense—I do most of these things without even thinking about it. Who starts a project without having a goal in mind?” As surprising as it may be, 37% of firms reported project failures were due to a lack of clear goals (source). Yes, the project management process seems very intuitive. However, if major businesses are stumbling over the first (and most important!) step, the process is certainly more complex and involved than one might think. Further, think of the consequences of a project failure. What if you didn’t bake enough pie for everyone at the party? What if someone was allergic the spices you used? For businesses, project failures can be extremely detrimental—resulting in wasted time, resources, and money.

So what can you do to ensure the success of your project?

While there are several ways to increase the chances of a successful project-- such as following the five steps listed above -- the best way to prepare yourself for your next project is to become a Project Management Professional. These individuals receive formal training and gather the tools they need to ensure the success of any project they choose to lead.

Are you interested in obtaining this elite certification? Click here to learn more. 

Interested in project management? Visit