Project pizza: creating a culture of celebration

Before Agathon, several of us worked together at another agency where a tradition was born: Whenever a large project launched, the company would buy everyone pizza for lunch. Of course, no amount of pizza can balance out the effort the team had invested in the project. But this was a way to pause and celebrate the accomplishment.

Because we’re a distributed team, with employees spread out across North and Central America, we can’t often share office pizza outside of our biannual retreats. Instead, we’ve put our own twist on this tradition: When we complete a project, we buy pizza for the key players and their families.

Why project pizza?

We’ve talked before about the value of a project retrospective as a way to pause and assess the project process. This is different. Yes, a project retrospective includes a moment to pause, celebrate the end of a project or phase, and acknowledge the things that went well. But it’s mostly about learning from the project to improve systems and processes in the future.

Project pizza, on the other hand, is purely about celebration. It’s a way to stop and acknowledge the completion of a project. It’s also a way to say thank you to the team members who have worked hard to get it to that point.

We also announce project pizzas publicly so the entire team—and not just those working on a particular project—can celebrate the win.

How about heytaco?

Similarly, we use the heytaco app in Slack for this same purpose. Sadly, there aren’t any actual tacos involved. But team members can use heytaco to award tacos when someone goes above and beyond. Taco-worthy moments include things like helpful code reviews, creating a solution to a nagging problem, helping someone clear the tasks on their list, or executing something especially well. (Occasionally we even give tacos for the perfect comeback during team banter.)

As with project pizza, the reward is small—and in the case of tacos, intangible—enough that it doesn’t provide any incentive on its own. Which is what makes it such a great tradition. We don’t do this to manipulate or incentivize team members to work harder, smarter, or faster; it’s simply a way for us to say thank you and celebrate a job well done!

Mandi Ehman

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