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The Chicken Noodle Soup Project

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Project Execution on the Chicken Noodle Soup Project

Project Execution on the Chicken Noodle Soup Project

I am considering using cooking to help people develop project management as a habit. I’ve often wondered if you become a good cook because you’re good at project management or if you become a good project manager because you’re good at cooking?

There are five phases to every project – initiation, planning, execution, control and closeout. Every meal or dish you create is itself a project – you get an idea for what you want to make (you initiate it), you have to figure out the ingredients and equipment, go procure anything you need to prepare the meal, and figure out when and where you’re going to make it (this is planning), then you have to prepare the meal (this is project execution), then you have to make sure it tastes like you wanted it to (project control), then you assess how you can make it better the next time (project close out).

I have found time and time again, that the more successful people are with the smaller projects of their life, the more likely they will be successful with the larger projects of life. So it just makes sense to teach people how to be more successful with the smaller projects of their life – like cooking.

For the first attempt to teach project management with cooking, I am going to revisit a concept I posted several days ago on flu remedies, my recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup.

Project Initiation is the first phase of the Chicken Noodle Soup Project.

In initiating the Chicken Soup Project, I wanted to do a bit of research as to just why Chicken Noodle Soup has been a cold and flu cureall for centuries. I had my trusty intern – Erica research this. Here is what she found:

We have all heard that when we are ill, a bowl of chicken noodle soup is a comforting remedy. Chicken noodle soup has a long history of relieving symptoms associated with various illnesses. During the 12th century, healers began recommending ‘the broth of fowl’ to their patients. Also around this time, Rabbi Mosche ben Maimonides, an Egyptian Jewish physician and philosopher, wrote about the many benefits of chicken noodle soup. He used chicken soup to treat a variety of illnesses including respiratory problems like the common cold.

Present day researchers have set out to determine whether or not chicken noodle soup actually does have medicinal uses. One pulmonary specialist, Irwin Ziment, M.D., who is also a professor at the UCLA School for Medicine, found that chicken soup contains contains an amino acid that is similar to a drug called acetylcysteine that is prescribed for respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis. This amino acid is released from the chicken when it is cooked and heated. Another pulmonary specialist who has spent time studying the benefits of chicken noodle soup is Stephen Rennard, M.D. He is the chief of pulmonary medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Rennard found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties. Colds and respiratory illnesses are many times caused by inflammation from neutrophils (inflammatory white blood cells) that travel to the bronchial tubes. Rennard used a chicken noodle soup recipe from his wife’s grandmother to show that neutrophils were less likely to accumulate when chicken soup was added.

Chicken noodle soup is also a useful cold remedy because it contains bacteria and virus fighting ingredients including garlic and onions. Garlic is a natural antibiotic for which the body does not develop resistance. Onions contain an anti-oxidant called quercetin that also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Even though chicken noodle soup is not a cure for a common cold, it has been proven to alleviate many symptoms that come along with a cold. It keeps you hydrated, can clear your nasal passageways, and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

To read more about the research conducted by Rennard, you can read the entire study at

To learn more about the health benefits of chicken noodle soup, you can go to the following websites:

After I had my curiousity sufficiently satisfied that Chicken Noodle Soup was a good thing to make and a good recipe to share with others, I got about planning how I would make it.

Project Planning – to make the chicken noodle soup I had to do a number of preparations – like I would for any other project.

Make sure I had all the ingredients:

Whole Chicken
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 quarts of water
2 tsp iodized salt
2 tbs whole peppercorns
2 tbs butter
1 bunch of celery
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 cup dry whole wheat egg noodles

Use the correct tools to reduce risk and improve the quality of the final product

1 roasting pan
2 pot holders
Oven pre-heated to 450 degrees
Cooking safety glasses
4 quart stock pot
Clean cutting board and sharp carving knife

Set my schedule and budget. Usually I make chicken noodle soup from the leftovers from a roast chicken meal so the cost of the extra ingredients are minimal. The most important thing though is the schedule as to develop the most savory broth. I usually let the chicken carcass simmer on very low heat overnight. So making chicken noodle soup definitely is a “project.”

Project Execution – here are the steps I take to make Chicken Noodle soup:

1. Roast the chicken – clean and dry one whole chicken, sprinkle it with pepper and place it in the roasting dish. Put roasting dish in the pre-heated 450 degree F oven. Cook at that temperature for 15 minutes then turn temp down to 350 degrees F. This sears the skin keeping the interior meat moist. The chicken is done when you can easily pull the drumstick off the chicken.

2. Remove most of the meat off the chicken carcass. Either serve the meat for dinner, or cover and put into the refrigerator – you will use it later for the soup. Toss the chicken carcass and the roasted skin into the 4 quart stock pot. Fill enough water to cover the chicken carcass.

3. Put the whole peppercorns, the salt and three whole stalks of celery into the stock pot with the chicken carcass. Cover and put on low heat overnight or for at least 5 hours.

4. In the morning or after 5 hours or so, strain the chicken broth, Keep the liquid and discard the bones, peppercorns and celery stalks.

5. Put in the refrigerator until you return home from work or after 5 or 6 hours. The chilling allows the fat to rise to the surface where it’s easier to skim off to make a lighter soup.

6. Chop the celery and onion into small 1/4 inch pieces. Saute in 2 tbs butter until the onions are translucent.

7. Put in the chicken broth. Crush the cloves of garlic and add them in the chicken broth.

8. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until the noodles are done.

9. Dice up the remaining chicken to 1/2 inch bite size pieces. (this is the chicken you pulled off the chicken before making the broth that you refrigerated). Put at least 1 cup of it into the soup.

Project Control

Salt to Taste – everyone’s taste for salt varies so it’s better to let people spice up their soup on their own. Tabasco sauce in the soup is also good.

A big part of cooking (and project management) is quality control. It starts with getting high quality ingredients, having the caliber of tools that help you create better results and using techniques that provide a higher quality outcome. The more you do both project management and cooking, the higher quality output you create. And when you combine the two, in the spirit of creating a high quality product, you get better at both.

Project Closeout

At the end of a meal, I review how I did and if I should do anything different the next time. One time, I put yams in my chicken noodle soup – they were an over powering presence. I have found the same with carrots. This is why I just stick with onions, celery, garlic and noodles.

For this go round with my chicken noodle soup – I was just showing my intern how to make it and we were testing out the idea of creating a video around this as well. I learned, that usually I make chicken noodle soup more as just part of making a roasted chicken dinner and doing it as a demonstration project – I ended up with a LOT of left over chicken. I am going to use it to make chicken salad for lunch tomorrow.

The soup came out GREAT – we served it with whole wheat saltines.

Top Ten Ways to Use Project Management to Power Your Career

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

At Cheetah Learning, we’ve put over 30,000 people through our Project Management programs.   We keep in touch with many of our past students and have noticed that most are weathering this economic down turn exceptionally well.   What are these folks doing to not just survive, but thrive – turning difficulties into opportunities?  

1.       SHOW RESULTS.  Project Management is the art and science of getting things done.  When you improve your Project Management skills, you know how to get things done quickly, and even more important, you learn how to document the results.  In our careers, we are often as good as our last hit.  You can’t be a one-hit wonder.  Instead, you want to keep charting, year after year, with success after success.


2.       BE EFFICIENT.  When you apply Project Management principles to your work or your home life, you stop reinventing the wheel.  Project Management teaches you how to make the most efficient use of resources to generate the best results in the least amount of time.  At the end of every project, you capture best practices and lessons learned, creating an invaluable documentation of hits and misses.  Sound too good to be true?  Good project managers do this on every project, and you can, too.


3.       CREATE AN ONGOING DIALOGUE.  One mistake I see a lot in Project Management and on teams is the assumption that there’s one meeting and everyone goes away, and then the communication ends, and somehow everything is still going to magically get done.  Your communication skills are not about your vocabulary.  They are about how you manage your communication.  Are you communicating frequently enough and with clarity?  Are you communicating what is relevant?  Are you communicating your successes?


4.       PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS.  People hear the word teamwork, and they groan or they say that they are, of course, a team player.  That’s why I like to bring it back to the kindergarten place in our mind:  Back to the sandbox.  Do you play well with others?  Do other people want to be on your project team?  Are you respected?  Do you listen actively to what others have to say?  Good project managers know when to lead and when to get out of the way.  When someone is interviewing you, you know what that person is thinking:  Can I work with him?  Will my team work well with her?


5.       LET YOUR CONFIDENCE SHINE.  When someone shows confidence, everyone in the room feels it, too.  One thing I consistently hear from our students is that the biggest payoff from their Project Management training or PMP® certification is the confidence that they gained.  They went back to their job with a solid Project Management foundation that made them feel more competent and able to project more confidence to their team and their boss.


6.       KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS.   Missed deadlines and projects that slip through the cracks are career killers.  Project Management skills focus on timelines and results that build your reputation and give team members a reason to trust you.  “I know that I can always count on her to get the job done.”  That quote can – and should – be about you.


7.       GET A GRIP.  Good project managers don’t have to freak out.  They can remain calm and in control because they have a Project Agreement which has all the critical information about the project in it.  They know when all the deadlines are, who is responsible for what and when, and they’ve also documented changes.  Everyone wants to have someone on the team who can stay calm when a project gets rocky and bring stability to chaos.


8.       ADAPT TO CHANGE.  Don’t ignore change.  Companies change.  Deadlines change.  People come and go.  Good project managers know they often have to adapt their plans and document what has changed and how that impacts the entire project.


9.       KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  What skills do you need to move from the status quo to the next level?  Once you have a solid foundation of Project Management skills, keep building on that foundation.  Don’t stagnate.  Continuous learning and a thirst for knowledge are always attractive to employers and team members.


10.   LEAD WITH PURPOSE AND PASSION. People will follow those who know what they are doing and who can generate results.  Project Management is a powerful leadership tool because it not only shows us how to keep our eye on the prize and the purpose, but it’s also about the passion to achieve and succeed.  Nothing feels better than accomplishment. 

Sarah Palin and Project Management

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

I’m heading back to Alaska where my youngest daughter is finishing up high school.   I was thinking about the current governor and her latest foray into the national scene.  This woman is a damn good project manager.    Whether you like Sarah Palin or not,  she knows how to get things done (which is after all the job of a project manager).    Here are the five reasons why Sarah Palin has a future in project management, regardless of what happens in her political career: 


  1. When hunting, Sarah uses the most efficient means possible to achieve her goals.
  2. She knows how to make friends with the right people to create incredible opportunities for her career.
  3. She manages a multifaceted job while juggling her 7+ member family.
  4. She has long range vision (Russia is a long way from Wasilla).
  5. Sarah knows how to squeeze money from her state’s sponsors to keep her constituents happy (and warm).

A big hooray for Sarah.  And Sarah – you were great on Saturday Night Live but stay away from the other media – those folks just aren’t as nice to you.  I don’t think they quite grasp the Alaskan way of life or our sensibilities.   SNL seems to have a much better handle on life up north.