People who work together in teams face challenges that go beyond the problem to be solved, and even beyond the technologies employed to solve that problem. They must work together under conditions ranging from calm to crisis. But because people have been working together as long as there have been people, we can learn how to work on projects from almost any story of people.
Film can help. Here's Part One of a list of some of my favorites. All of them have something to say to those of us who work on projects. And check out Part Two of this list.
- Treasure of the Sierra Madre
- A study of scope creep and team dynamics. Humphrey Bogart's "Dobbs" gives us insight into one particular source of scope creep — ambition. The team dynamics that develop as a consequence of Dobbs's greed are often mirrored in project teams. Director: John Huston. Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston. 1948. DVD: 126 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- Apollo 13
- Watch and learn how Ed Harris's Gene Kranz, flight director, makes the right decisions to lead the team back from the brink of disaster. We also see team dynamics under extreme stress, both in the capsule and on the ground, and good examples of CYA and state-of-the-art group problem solving. Director: Ron Howard. Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon. 1995. DVD: 140 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- NOVA: Super Bridge
- A documentary by US Public Television's Nova that follows the construction of a suspension bridge over the Mississippi just above St. Louis. Follow the designers and constructors through a bewildering tangle of delays, technological problems, floods, and biting cold as they deal with all obstacles to make the bridge a reality. Narrator: Hal Holbrook. 1997. VHS: 120 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- Mutiny on the Bounty
- Make your project For learning about
film is probably
the best thing next
to actual experienceplan carefully, and don't bet on things working the way you want them to. Captain Bligh went for the gold, and ended up losing — he had to backtrack from Cape Horn, lost a year, and then tried to make up the schedule on the backs of the crew. A study in managing by force vs. leadership. Director: Frank Lloyd. Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone. 1935. DVD: 132 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- Defending Your Life
- An example of how not to run a project retrospective. Director: Albert Brooks. Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep. 1991. DVD: 112 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- The Last Place on Earth
- Originally produced for US Public Television's Masterpiece Theater, this story of the race to the South Pole between two expeditions led by Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen is based on the masterwork of the same name by Roland Huntford. When viewed as a case study in project management, it explores the issues of focus, risk management, conventional wisdom, science, and innovation. Dir. Ferdinand Fairfax. Martin Shaw, Sverre Anker Ousdal. 1984. DVD: 396 min. Order from Amazon.com. Or read the book.
- The African Queen
- At the beginning of World War I, in September 1914, Rose Sayer, a Methodist missionary, and Charlie Allnut, a Canadian boat captain, find themselves on a desperate journey using Allnut's boat — the African Queen — to escape internment and possible execution by German military in German East Africa. Temperamentally and culturally at odds with each other, Charlie and Rose gradually form an alliance to attack the German patrol boat Luise. How Rose convinces Charlie to undertake this daunting task is a study in team development and the tools of influence. Rose is played by Katharine Hepburn, and Charlie by Humphrey Bogart in his only Oscar-winning role (best actor). Order from Amazon.com
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Team Thrills
- Occasionally we have the experience of belonging to a great team. Thrilling as it is, the experience
is rare. How can we make it happen more often?
- What Enough to Do Is Like
- Most of us have had way too much to do for so long that "too much to do" has become the new
normal. We've forgotten what "enough to do" feels like. Here are some reminders.
- Problem-Solving Preferences
- When people solve problems together, differences in preferred approaches can surface. Some prefer to
emphasize the goal or objective, while others focus on the obstacles. This difference is at once an
asset and annoyance.
- How We Waste Time: I
- Time is the one workplace resource that's evenly distributed. Everyone gets exactly the same share,
but some use it more wisely than others. Here's Part I of a little catalog of ways we waste time.
- Risk Creep: II
- When risk events occur, and they're of a kind we never considered before, it's possible that we've somehow
invited those risks without realizing we have. This is one way for risk to creep into our efforts. Here's
Part II of an exploration of risk creep.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 22: Red Flags: I
- When we finally admit to ourselves that a collaborative effort is in serious trouble, we sometimes recall that we had noticed several "red flags" early enough to take action. Toxic conflict and voluntary turnover are two examples. Available here and by RSS on July 22.
- And on July 29: Red Flags: II
- When we find clear evidence of serious problems in a project or other collaboration, we sometimes realize that we had overlooked several "red flags" that had foretold trouble. In this Part II of our review of red flags, we consider communication patterns that are useful indicators of future problems. Available here and by RSS on July 29.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.
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