What’s The Return on Investment of a Slice of Pizza…or a Heartfelt Acknowledgment to a Project Manager?

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D.

What's The Return on Investment of a Slice of Pizza

You can probably purchase a slice of pizza and a can of pop for under two dollars. Is it a good investment? Well, it depends on when you plan on feasting on the pizza.

As a young project manager, just learning the ropes, I developed a strong hatred for team meetings. Yes, I know there is purpose for every team meeting. But that doesn’t mean that I should like them.

When people work on multiple projects, they may end up having to attend several team meetings a week. Pretty soon, you end up spending all of your time in team meetings rather than doing productive work. This is how my team meetings would take place:

  • The team enters the room with daggers in their eyes wanting to know why we are having another worthless team meeting.
  • The team meeting is taking place between 11:00 a.m. – noon and the manufacturing people are unhappy that I am cutting into their lunch time.
  • The deadly silence in the room is broken by the grumbling of the stomachs of all of the team members that began work at 6:00 a.m.
  • I ask each team member to discuss any issues in their area. Everyone says “NO ISSUES! CAN I LEAVE NOW?”
  • Several team members ask “Why am I here?” This meeting is worthless.
  • As I begin to speak, I notice most of the team looking at the clock in the room or their watches.
  • Everyone makes a motion that the meeting be adjourned. That’s what they all want.

Now, tell everyone on the team that the project will be providing pizzas and soft drinks as part of the team meeting. You will soon discover, as did I, that formality has gone to informality, people are talking with one another, problems are being discussed, and the atmosphere has changed.

I discovered that by doing this once or twice a month, the team meetings are more productive, and you end up with fewer action items because the team comes prepared to make decisions. Pretty soon, people end up looking forward to the team meetings. The same effect can happen if you have “brown bag” team meetings twice a month (and the project provides soft drinks and cookies) and twice a month pizza is provided.

So, what’s the return on investment on a slice of pizza? More than you could possibly imagine. Try it and find out for yourself. By the way, I love team meetings when nourishment is provided. And let’s remember that ‘nourishment” comes in other than coloric forms. At Whole Foods Market, for example, every meeting in the company ends in “appreciations,” at which time people are invited to acknowledge or appreciate a team member or anyone else in the company. People love meetings there, too!

Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks, including “Project Management 2.0”.