Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

Sponge Cake

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My grandma made arguably the world’s best sponge cake.

Its soft moist texture and slightly eggy flavour meant it not only tasted fabulous, but was probably pretty nutritious too. Best of all, the cake mix made an excellent topping for her apple and raisin strudel. Del-ic-ious!

Now to make the perfect sponge cake is no mean feet, it takes a mix of essentials, that if not applied properly and with care could lead to a cake that is tasteless, sickly sweet, frustratingly flat, over-baked and leathery, burned, soggy – or heaven forbid, all squishy in the middle. Yuck!

Let us consider the attributes required for the perfect sponge cake:

1. Budget

Without adequate funds, no matter how strictly you desire to adhere to the remaining essentials, you will not get very far!

2. Ingredients

The perfect parts make the perfect whole. Leave out any vital component (or equally suitable substitute) and people will notice, leaving unwanted cake on the side of their plate. Worse, unless your excuse is a good one, they may never return for tea again.

In family and business, values can also be construed as essential ingredients. Without them, your cake may have no soul.

3. Kitchen

Location location locaketion! You need space. Enough of it to position yourself as well as the tools and kitchenware required to weigh the ingredients, mix them and carry out the rest of the process. Too cramped and you may have to stack items that could fall over. Too much space may stretch your resources.

4. Tools

You don’t want to faf around guessing because you don’t have the correct measuring spoon. You want to focus on the task at hand, carrying out ‘process’.

5. Process

Like the budget, without a tried and tested strategy, instructions or process, your cake may end up pear shaped, or worse, pear flavoured!

Accidents or changes of plan can sometimes lead to beneficial discovery, so you never know, you may invent pear flavoured sponge cake and retire a baker millionaire, or at the very least, very popular with your younger family members and guests!

The term ‘process’ comes from a philosophy devised by industrial design firm Frog Design of California.

6. Proportions

This is where the magic happens. A little too much here, or too little there, and as per Process, your cake may end up either inedible or undesired. Often, a cook may take such valuable secrets as proportions to the grave. So, don’t forget to ask Grandma while you can!

7. Temperature

Self explanatory.

8. Timing

Once again, a critical component. Leave your cake in the oven too long, and it will be too chewy, hard – or worse, an unintentionally excellent source of carbon.

9. Assistance & focus

a) We all know that the moment another individual is introduced into the mix, the challenges outlined above fade into insignificance. A sentient being is not a spoon – and so will from the start require constant instruction and correction – unless they are taking on the leadership role themselves. If that person is not a team player, late, troublesome, untrustworthy or dislikes being told what to do, you already face a challenge. In fact, if the mission is critical and you only have one cake to bake by a specific deadline (and you know what you are doing), it is often best to go with gut instinct, send your help away and find another – or go it alone.

b) Most importantly, and related to 9(a), focus. In each successful venture I have been associated with, either by chance or choice (or both!), my crew and/or I were able to crack on without distraction. Our minds free to zero in on the matter at hand whilst subconsciously being aware of or thinking about what we had to do next. Anyone disrupting the mixing or baking process is effectively (even if without intent to harm) putting a spanner in the works, or in our case, in the cake mix.

If for whatever reason you are unable to focus or deal with any distractions, my (learned!) advice is to switch the oven off, clean up the kitchen and try again another day.

People will wait for good cake.

10. So

Never compromise.

I was inspired to write Sponge Cake in late 2010 to illustrate points when discussing certain matters with members of my family, friends and company crew. At some point, I will list projects created by my employer that were or are examples of Sponge Cake Project Management in action, including those that were successful because we did not compromise or suffer distraction, and those that suffered because for whatever reason, we were unable to follow the Sponge Cake mantra.

The August 2012 NASA Curiosity landing and London 2012 Olympics are examples of Sponge Cake ventures – well funded, well planned and supported by a stellar team.



Written by Oflife

April 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

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