I bake, shape and dip approximately 150 cake pops every week to sell at school as a fundraiser for one of clubs that I advise. If you are not familiar with cake pops, they are a delicious condensed cupcake on a stick that is dipped in chocolate. I have controlled the creation of the cake pops because I can't always trust the students to follow my directions and I am highly efficient and I have figured out the quickest method to make them.
The club decided (based on my suggestion) to sell cake pop bouquets for Valentine's Day. I thought this would generate double the normal sales of the week and help us get the money needed to buy some photography equipment. It is hard to run the photography club with no cameras. On Monday, the club students met, and I had organized all the orders, cake pops and the other supplies needed to dip the cake pops.
I made two fatal errors when I came up with this plan. The first error was giving the students too many options in cake flavors and dipping colors. I normally make chocolate, red velvet and funfetti every week but for Valentine's I added white, lemon and strawberry cakes. The second error was not having the students dip the cake pops in my classroom. The students were working in another room at the end of the hall and I kept running back and forth to monitor their progress and working with the students that I tutor afterschool.
Needless to say the bouquets turned into a hot mess. The dipping was atrocious, the students made a mess of the supplies, and the wrong flavor and color combinations were made. I blame myself because I wasn't there to fully manage and execute the process. I had anticipated that it would take a group of 7 students an hour and a half to complete all the orders, but it took over 4 1/2 hours to complete 30 orders.
This debacle highlighted how much growth I still need to be an effective leader. The students had never dipped cake pops and I only took 10 minutes to show them how the process works. If I had invested a little more time at the beginning to walk them through the process I could have avoided many of the messes. I found this article on CNN.com which highlights 23 traits of a good leader. The two traits from the list that would have helped me the most in this situation are clarity and leverging team strengths.
It was a great learning exprience and the students I decided that if (and only if) we did this again next year that we would simplify the process. Even with all the mess the students who had ordered bouquets loved them.