Movies and Project Management

Well making a movie is no doubt a project and needs careful management to make a good movie. But let us look at movies and project in a different angle.

Time for the background. The October 2011 edition of the PM Networks (the PMI magazine) covers a story about the lessons learned of the great rescue on the Chilean Coal Mine disaster. That single page article questions whether we have learn our lessons from that. Below the main text, a highlighted text area mentions how challenging the management of the rescue project was.

I was then wondering when somebody will would come up with a film on that thinking on how dramatic of series of events of the rescue. Thinking further on the same thought, I was thinking why we like great movies. Specially the action movies. Recall ‘Matrix’, ‘Day after tomorrow’, ‘Anaconda’, Independence Day’, ‘etc. Do they have anything common and what those films to do with Project Management?

Lets park project management a bit and see what is there in common in those films. There is a character or group of characters (lets call them heroes) that is trying to rescue or destroy or achieve something. Be it the world or any other thing.

Let me recall something. What is the definition of a Project? According to PIMBOK version 4 – It “is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service”. It has a start and  end.

Do you smell something here? What is there in the Independence Day? It is to destroy the aliens – “a temporary endeavor” and by destroying the aliens, the word is saved. – “a unique service”. Are we talking about a project here?

Let’s look at few more details here.

  • Do we have a schedule here? Yeah very tight schedule. Take Independence day. Capton Miller has only few hours
  • Aren’t they having technological, human resources limitations? Plenty. Take independence day
  • Aren’t they having conflicts in the team? Always, otherwise the movie will not be that interesting
  • The list goes on and on and all those are characteristics of real project constraints and parameters

Let’s look at these stories in these films in a different angle. What are those Super Hero characters like Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day do? And who are they?

Aren’t they ‘Project Managers’ and don’t they manage ‘Projects’? Be it “saving world”, “protecting a kid” or “killing Anaconda”, “Saving Private Ryan” or anything.

These heroes are high performing Project Managers who manage their Projects in extreme conditions and with many unknowns including Aliens. They are super-efficient in getting their team to achieve the objectives. They always have bad luck to start with but ended up having luck in their side. I wonder what if those super project managers sit for PMP certification.

We love those movies where the project (story) of the movie is really challenging. More the challenge, more we love the movie. We love the movie when the Project Manager is performing under tremendous difficulty. More the difficulty, more we love. I still wonder as project managers, why we really love those projects in the silver screen but not enjoy that much when we face with real projects in much better conditions. Answer may be the human nature.


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