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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Coppola

Just add egg: What successful Project Managers can learn from Betty Crocker Written by Andrew Fisher

Yes, I am indeed talking about the Betty Crocker who makes cake mixes; the packets you sneak off the shelf into your trolley, mix in a bowl with water and an egg, toss it in the oven, then smile like the Cheshire cat as your guests tuck into your perfect, velvety creation and coo about “how much effort you’ve gone to…”.

Now, the fact that I allow my guests to think I deserve a place on the next round of Masterchef is not the point of this post.

The point, lies in the egg.  Let me explain…

In 1952, General Mills (owner of Betty Crocker) released Betty’s first cake mix.  The business world was abuzz with what was thought would revolutionise the way people baked and would fast become “the next big thing”.  But when sales didn’t take off, the execs hired business psychologists to conduct research to find the source of the problem.  And the problem, according to the experts, was the egg.

At a breakthrough focus group, it emerged that housewives felt that they were cutting too many corners; they felt guilty, almost as if they werecheating,because the products were just too easy. In response to this, Betty Crocker’s business psychologists came up with a plan… they took out the egg.  Yes, they simply removed the powdered egg from the mix, put an instruction on the packet that the housewife should add one freshly beaten egg, and suddenly the product began flying off the shelves. Today, amazingly, we still have to add that darn egg.

So, what can we, as successful Project Managers, learn from Betty Crocker’s story?

1.  Understand the user experience

Often what seems obvious to management or decision makers is very different to the end users.  Be thorough in your analysis, facilitate open discussions and assume nothing!

Don’t underestimate the value placed by a person on their role and their processes.

Enabling the housewife to add eggs made the process feel more authentic and so enabling her to feel successful as a homemaker and cook.  A small change in the workplace can make a big difference to employee feelings of stability and security.  Be perceptive, monitor behaviour and closely manage change.

2.  Involvement is critical

Greater client involvement, across all key sects of the business, increases their buy-in and therefore their sense of loyalty and ownership of the product.  If you want real business adoption, think about how you are involving the user and leaving them feeling engaged.

3.  Be adaptable

It’s not enough simply creating a goal, developing a plan and executing it.  Business and market conditions are often variable, especially during the course of large-scale projects.  Project managers should frequently review and revise the project plan, to ensure team learnings are integrated along the way and performance remains on track to meet the greater objectives.

And next time you’re rolling out a project, remember the story of Betty Crocker’s egg. She’s proven that if you can always keep the end user in mind, you can have your cake and eat it too.


Andrew Fisher is the Information Management Director at Velrada, and has over 20 years of experience in ICT enabled IM transformation project work. Andrew has a strong consulting and services delivery expertise across specialities such as Portals & Collaboration, Information Management, Enterprise Content Management, and Document and Records Management. He is currently leading a team to implement a number of integrated case management and business intelligence solutions in both the public and private sectors.



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