News / 11/11/2014 / 537


Which way to go?

Out of the blue did the news come yesterday that "Mediteraneo" festival of wine, gastronomy and wine tourism scheduled for 15th and 16th November, 2014 was cancelled due to poor health of the festival organizer. The organizer himself apologizes sincerely to all partners and friends of the festival.  I can and I must accept here fully the organizer's explanation, so I will not exploit here possible assertion that the organizer failed to meet the required budget of the festival, as a consenquence of not being capable to attract sufficient number of wineries/exhibitors, etc, etc...

For years I have worked in foreign companies which apply project management system in their operations, so I am well-aware of principles and risks in project  and process management. Organizing a serious wine festival with an ambition to grow regional certainly represents a project and it includes all project steps starting with clear definitions of objectives, SWOT analysis leading to clear methodology of measuring success. Such a project requires a good project team.

Unfortunately, we can all witness that  a beginner's mistake was made in the organization of the festival, which would have been avoided by any experienced project manager - the project doesn't rely on a single person, because then the success of the project depends on one person only. Risks which might jeopardize the success of the project are concentrated, and the goal is to mitigate potential risks as much as possible and spread them over many stakeholders in order to make their effect milder. In project management, the rule: "the project, that's me" doesn't apply ... or, in our case: "Wine festival, that's me". Only Louis XIV could have said something similar (L'etat c'est moi), but I guess we have learnt something since then ...

The project is composed of project phases and the intermediary steps, and failure in one phase must never jeopardize the entire project. Another fault made by the organizer which indicates that all steps in the project haven't been designed well and analyzed prior to the launch of the project.

Even in case of failure to implement the project or any part thereof, a project manager prepares an exit strategy: a list of activities that will reduce the possible damage to a minimum. Unfortunately, we still have not seen that any action based on the exit strategy has been communicated ... I wonder whether all winemakers and participants who paid participation fees have been duly informed about cancellation and whether they will get refunded ...

I'm a big proponent of project-based working because it is exactly what Serbia needs in general - to finally stop the habit of ad hoc planning and reacting to situations only when they occur rather than preparing an appropriate response in advance, then we should also quit the practice of chaotic organization and acting as amateurs in front of heavy workload. This kind of guerrilla activity, without planning and without being prepared for all possible scenarios leaves a very bad impressions not only about the organizer, but consequently about all representatives of Serbian wine scene.

This year has been very successful for the Serbian winemakers ... Serbian wines won all major international competitions in the past year , important wine experts and opinion-makers from the global scene visited Serbia and met local winemakers and tasted wines from Serbia, our winemakers have begun to appear on the international wine events ... The positive image of modern winemaking in Serbia is crossing the borders of Serbia.

Distinguished wine experts (including some from USA as well) were invited as lecturers at this year's Mediteraneo Festival. Maybe people here have no sense about it, but the calendar of wine events in Europe and the world is crowded and all the events and festivals are planned at the beginning of the year. Imagine that the organizer cancels at the last minuten your invitation to a festival somewhere in Serbia. And you may have already refused the invitation to participate somewhere else across the world in order to be in Belgrade on this day with local winemakers and wine lovers ... Will you get excited the next time you receive invitation from Serbia to take part in their local events? In normal circumstances, all invited participants would receive compensation from organizers in case of cancellation (and it should be also included in the budget for exit strategy).

Winemakers, both local and those from the region, also feel cheated. The event, which was announced as a professional event ended up as an amateur event and detected all weaknesses in the organization which led to cancellation due to poor health of the organizer.

Wine lovers and wine audience who planned to come to the festival over the weekend were also at a loss. At a loss because the confidence is lost - what seems shining bright from the outside turns out to be a disaster in organizational terms - ie.  system-wise, the project basics were built in a wrong way (in ICT world, it is called System Error).

The organizer is also at a loss ... I sincerely hope that the problems of poor health will be resolved, but once lost trust can not be restored. I'm afraid that in the future it will be very difficult to convince the representatives of the wine scene here and in the region that such methods of work can result in a successful event. Marketing is not just money consumption. For Mediteraneo, this is a very bad marketing. The corporate governance lists numerous examples of great projects ruined by poor management ... So we are neither the first nor the last to face such circumstances. But it's time to realize that we have to work differently.


Tomislav Ivanović

Awarded wine writer, wine critic and contributor to selected wine magazines. WSET3-certified author and editor-in-chief of Member of Vojvodina Sommelier Association. Juror in national and international wine competitions. Lecturing about wines of Serbia and the Balkans. Local partner of Wine Mosaic organization. Co-founder of International Prokupac Day.

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