14. November 2016

The secret ingredients of a great project

4 min. read

Usually you get an A for excellence. You might get an E for Effort and a T for Nice Try, if you’re being judged by Phife Dawg (RIP) from A Tribe Called Quest. But it’s agreed that F is for Failing. However, F is a very important ingredient when considering what a great project is.

Burger time

Think of a project like a burger — an environmentally friendly burger, of course. Sometimes you have to ask yourself: “does this have enough mayo?”. “is the bun too hard?”, “what if we tried a different kind of flour?”.

We should be doing the same with projects and increase the chances of making every single bite interesting and flavorful. We might not succeed, but it’s better to try and fail than fail to try. If we don’t have the right ingredients, the burger will not be good, and then it’s often better not to eat it.

So what are the secret ingredients? Back in 2010, we had three:


Great burgers are being crafted in kitchens where imaginations best friend is experimentation.

A burger tastes better if there’s a good story behind it.

It takes time to make a great burger. And if Benjamin Franklin is right, it also takes money.

A few years later, we added 3 more Fs:


If you want to make “burgers of the future”, you have to challenge yourself. It’s scary to try new things, but the result is more interesting and you grow from it.


Creativity thrives when there’s room to be creative. Trust is the secret sauce. It can take time to earn trust, but creativity thrives when you have it.


It’s our responsibility to make the world better place, one burger (or pixel) at a time.

You can use this simple tool to check if anything is missing. If there are gaps, try to bridge them before the project starts.

DISCLAMER: Several studies show that you cannot quantify your gut feeling. If your burger looks happy, and the project makes you unhappy, you might need to get a hobby, hire a coach, change business or run a marathon.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to put the sliders, here are some helpful questions:

Fun questions:

What makes users, the client and your team excited?
Is the chemistry good?
Why are we looking forward to getting started?
Fame questions:

What’s the story behind the project?
(Why) would people be interested?
Will the press release “write itself”?
Fortune questions:

Is there enough time to make it great?
Does time go hand in hand with the budget?
How can we scope it in a way, so the two go hand in hand?
Forward questions:

Are we going into uncharted territory and challenging the status quo?
Will we launch this project being a different agency than when we started?
What’s the short and long time vision for the brand/product/service?
Freedom questions:

Is there a willingness to take risks or do we need to play it safe?
Are there few or many stakeholders?
Do they trust us?
Footprint questions:

Are we making a real difference?
Are we contributing to something good or bad in the world?
Do we change human behavior in a positive or negative way?
It’s interesting to dissect a project through this burger-lense. We should always be striving for all sliders to be high but in reality, very few projects (and burgers) have everything.

The important thing is that the total “score”, if you will, is positive and that we strive to make the parameters high before commencing and throughout the project. So, if one parameter is low but the other five are high, it’s most likely a great project.

The F words are also a good reminder during a project’s lifecycle as it raises some important questions:

Is it still fun, are we pushing the creative bar, do we have enough time, are we still taking risks and setting new standards, do we have freedom to be creative, and are we making a difference?”. If not, let’s try to change the circumstances together.

Something something
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