Prost Management: Lessons From Oktoberfest


7 cities – 10 stages – 40+ hours of oompah music – a lesson in project management and project controls from Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest can be a blast – unless you’re an oompah band that has become popular over the years.  It then becomes a lesson in coordination and logistics, stakeholder management, and risks.

I am the band manager for 2 oompah bands in Tulsa.  Mach Schnell and the German American Society’s Blaskapelle.  The phrase Mach Schnell or “Macht Schnell[e]” means “hurry up”, “Go ahead!” or “Make it quick!”.  Blaskapelle means brass or wind band.  And both of these bands have become quite popular.


Gigs in Tulsa…and Beyond!

This year we had more gigs in more cities than ever before.  Keeping the event stakeholders happy, the band happy (and fed) along with getting equipment from one event to another requires more than just hope – it requires negotiation, coordination, influencing, risk management…basically, it requires project management with a flair for project controls.

A band cannot be late to a gig, exceed their contracted time on stage when other bands are coming in, or show up without all the equipment needed for the gig.  You can alleviate all of these concerns by simply inserting some basic project management and control practices and procedures in place and continuing to grow them as you and your team learn and embrace the new processes.

Some of the basic tools to implement first: schedules, estimating, and documentation. Then you are on to project controls.

Project Schedule

A proper schedule (a key component to Project Controls) is going to “tell a story” about your project. Knowing what is going on, what has gone on, and who has it going on is essential to running a successful project. In this manner, a schedule is going to allow for greater visibility and accuracy on a project. Starting with a WBS (work breakdown structure), you capture the scope of the project and keep anything from falling through the cracks.  Once you have that, sequencing, estimating, and resourcing the tasks allow you to better forecast completion. Knowing the project’s critical path (which is made tremendously easier through a scheduling tool like MS Project or Primavera), will let the project manager know what tasks will either cause the project’s end date to slip or what tasks need the most attention to keep the project on track.


Project Estimates

There needs to be more granularity in the estimating process – a deeper understanding of what lies behind the figures in our estimates, how our estimates were obtained.  By doing so, when (not if) project parameters change, then cost estimates correlate and can be managed appropriately.


Something as simple as implementing a CHAIRD log goes a long way in helping control your projects. It houses CHanges that are made to the project, potential Action items needing attention, Issues that have happened, Risks you should be on the lookout for (along with corrective actions should they happen) as well as Decisions that were made to either get you out of your current situation or that got you into your current jam. This completed document also helps feed after-action reviews for project quality improvement as well as lessons learned for future projects.


Implementing Project Controls

A schedule is only as good as the data that is fed into it. A good project controls analyst (PCA) is going to assist with establishing realistic estimates, running meaningful reports out of the data, and helping with overall precision on the project. A PCA can work with vendors and other third parties to obtain updates on the project and feed that into the schedule for (nearly) real-time status.

Of course, these are all great ideas but can be daunting to try to implement them all at once from ground zero. If you’re looking to increase the effectiveness of your projects while improving your overall project lifecycle experience (or book an Oktoberfest Oompah Band), give us a call. We have a myriad of ideas, experience, and training that can empower you to improve and enhance your company’s (or band’s) project performance.



Looking To Learn More About Project Controls?

Check out our Project Controls video series as we dive deeper into Project Scheduling, Finance Controls, and Document Controls


Bruce Jordan, CIO – Arrowhead Consulting