Project management is like serving tables?

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Quite an unusual analogy you might say. But, trust me these two things are not too far-off. Both need you to be adept at handling your resources; and handling them well. Or else, you will end up failing at your service.

That’s not all. I’m going to present a comparison between these two services. And, you will get to know how project management is like serving tables.

So, without further ado let me begin with the comparison -

Educating the customers about what to expect

Not everyone coming to the restaurant is exactly sure on what he/she is going to eat. So, as a server you need to educate them with what you have at offer. Which dish is going to fit the best as per their taste? And, educate the customers about similar other things.

Similarly, as a project manager you need to educate the client about what to expect from the service. Telling them about the latest trends can be a good idea to begin with. And, then elaborating on how you will proceed towards meeting the goal can help win the trust.

In both cases if you fail to understand the requirements, you are going to end up delivering the wrong product. And, that is going to be a failure at service, which I am sure no one would like to achieve.

Asking the right questions, at the right time

As stated in the point above, there can be times when the customer is unsure about what he/she is looking for. This is where you ought to ask questions.

What type of cuisine he/she would like to have? What sort of food does the person like? Does he/she like spicy or moderately spicy food stuff? Getting answer to these questions will help you suggest dishes to the guest as per their taste.

Let’s compare it to a scenario when the client has come to you to get a website developed. And, does not know anything beyond that. This is when as a manager you ought to probe the right questions.

Asking what the client expects from the website? Is it going to serve the purpose of just educating the customers or he/she wants to sell products from the site? In both cases, you need to create different website.

So, the situation while serving a table and handling a client is quite similar. Isn’t is so?

Handling the traffic and prioritizing the tasks

There is that one peak time of the day where the customers continue to flow. That’s when the server has to go through his/her toughest test. You know that there are ten tables waiting for food, but it is going to take time to cook quality food. So, you must know how to handle the traffic. And, set the expectations at the same time.

On similar grounds, as a project manager you are to handle many clients at the same time. So, you need to set clear expectations, about the deadline. Creating a timeline for the entire project. Dividing it into phases and sharing details for the same with clients. All things can play a vital role in the end.

Come to think of it, this is like serving a table. You divide the entire meal into starters, main course and dessert. In both cases if the client knows that work is under progress, they will have no problem in waiting.

Keeping the confusion to the kitchen

Things can get confusing when many chefs are cooking cuisines in the same kitchen. But, you can explain the chaos to the guest as an excuse for delivering the wrong food or for delay in service. You need to limit that chaotic atmosphere to the kitchen itself. Or else you are going to end up losing the customer.

When your team is handling many tasks and projects at one time, things are bound to be chaotic. But, as a manager it is your job to keep all the confusion and miscommunication behind the curtains. Even a hint of any such situation can put a negative impression on the client. And, you might end up losing him/her.

Juggling between tasks and schedules to avoid the confusion, thus, becomes imperative. And, that’s another facet in which project management is just like serving tables.

Presentation of facts and figures is the key

If you don’t present it in an appealing manner you are never going to impress the guests. It’s as simple as that! This is the reason that presentation becomes the most important aspect of successful cooking. A well-presented dish is always going to get the praise. No matter how much chaos you faced while cooking it, if it looks well it’s all worth it.

In a similar way, if the final product is not polished to look perfect you can never expect to get a Thumbs Up from client. You must take the responsibility to test the final product before it reaches the client.

Whether it is a website or a custom software that you’ve built for the client, you need to ensure that it works well sound and pleasing in looks. And, that’s how you are going to win the client’s heart!

So, what do you think now? The two jobs are quite similar, aren’t they?


Vartika Kashyap is a seasoned marketing professional who is an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. She currently runs the marketing team at ProofHub — a project management software for teams of all sizes. Connect with Vartika on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.


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Chief Marketing Officer@ProofHub. Featured writer on LinkedIn. Contributor at Elearning Industry, Dzone, Your Story and

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