Is there an easy and sustainable way to crack open a coconut?

Simple, Systematic, Successful – Team Strategies with Sustained Impact

METEOR – a strategy providing useful tips on successful project implementation

Sound familiar? You’re working in a team on a new project at your company, or at university, or in the local community. To kick off the project, often a simplified list of topics is provided on what are actually complex topics, and you go off to discuss the topics “in more depth” in smaller groups. And what you then tend to get is a “hodgepodge of specialists.” What comes out at the other end has little to do with networked thinking. And then there are those meetings where the project managers – put in place top-down – exploit their position of power to determine the direction things should go in, often laid down by those above in “briefing sessions.” By the end of the meeting, there’s often heated discussion, rounds of ripostes, people digging in, and even lasting animosity. Not only that, but the results are often worse than was expected and looking back, no-one is even sure where some of the good ideas actually came from. The minutes, which were written after the event, often include things that make you wonder if they were based on the same meeting. In a nutshell: how frustrating! After working for decades with Steinbeis at Mannheim University of Applied Sciences, Professor Dr.-Ing. Klaus-Jürgen Peschges knows of a way to develop team processes that will be effective in the long term: the METEOR strategy.

Experience with projects like the ones described above inevitably led Peschges to wonder if there has to be a way to develop the optimum approach to sustainably effective strategic projects. “Sustainably effective” means that all measures used in the course of a project must be contextually compatible in terms of social expectations, fairness, and lasting impact. Measures solely introduced for economic reasons – and therefore incompatible with such criteria – are out of the question.

To develop and implement sustainably successful strategies, a number of very different approaches exist, usually involving processes dictated by hierarchical methods and elaborate project management methods. Peschges has used the METEOR method for many years, applying it to teams of all sizes involved in end-to-end, interdisciplinary strategy development. He uses the method at Steinbeis workshops by introducing a free selection of project examples. This is always subject to a fundamental rule of teaching practical skills: simple first, complex later. For example, one effective and motivating way to introduce people to this method is to look at optimal and sustainable ways to crack open a coconut.

Ways to achieve goals – finding potential solutions

Finding answers when it comes to solving sustainable strategy projects raises another question: How do you ensure all participants are treated equally or involved equally in the result, especially in the long term? Compared to working individually, when people develop methodical approaches to strategic planning and project development in teams, and those teams are interdisciplinary and heterogeneous, there will be different levels of experience and know-how. Also, there will be a close correlation between the quality of results and the overall age of participants. The most important factors to think about if you want to establish the best conditions and make full use of potential are:

  • Methodical approaches, from start to finish
  • Setups that are independent of hierarchy
  • Accurate/faithful documentation of ideas
  • Decision-making based on democratic and anonymous methods
  • Heterogeneous groups (in terms of gender, age, nationality, field of expertise, etc.)
  • A “large enough” number of participants to match the problem
  • Methods that discourage competitiveness
  • Systematic use of aids
  • Any other adaptations that help projects succeed compared to conventional project management

It is particularly important to involve a specialist team moderator, with unrestricted involvement in processes, something also made possible by adapting methods.

Tangible success

A defining feature of the METEOR method is that it can be applied to any kind of project or problem. It revolves around a small wonder based on straightforward “fractal” methods (similar and recurring patterns), which are applied immediately by the team members working on a project, broken down across ten systematic steps. METEOR is a German acronym for “people-oriented design of techniques and organization” (MEnschenorientierte Gestaltung von TEchnik und ORganisation).

It was only after using the METEOR method that, for example, a way was found to run continual training courses involving projects. Those courses have now been organized for almost 3,000 students at universities. For the projects, between 10 and 40 students work together on a topic that they select themselves. For example, by using simple creativity techniques, usually between 200 and 400 ways can be found to come up with new constructs, out of which several concepts offering strong potential can be worked up in order to come up with the best possible concept, which is then developed together in a way that participants can sign on to.

For those who place importance on meaningful, consensus-oriented interaction – involving different disciplines, life experiences, personalities, etc. – in order to develop truly sustainable strategies, more insights can be gained into these methods and their use at in-depth Steinbeis workshops.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus-Jürgen Peschges (author)
Freelance project manager
Steinbeis Transfer Center: Center at the Mannheim University (Mannheim)

Steffen Manser (author)
Team leader/doctoral student
Mannheim University of Applied Sciences CeMOS – Center for Mass Spectrometry and Optical Spectroscopy

Andreas Starker (author)
Process Manager, Production
KSR Kuebler Niveau-Messtechnik GmbH (Zwingenberg)