Although reading about managing project teams is helpful, film is the best thing next to actual experience. Trouble is, no studio would ever green-light a script about project management. Here's what would happen. Screenwriter: "I've got this great idea for a film about project management." Movie Mogul: "Security, get this guy out of my office!" So we have to make do with great films that weren't meant to be about project management, but which have lessons for us anyway.
Here's Part Two of a little catalog that's both entertaining and enlightening. Check out Part One too.For learning about
film is probably
the best thing next
to actual experience
- Twelve Angry Men
- The jury retires to deliberate, and right away it's 11-1 to convict, but one dissenter gradually brings the rest around. Watch it for the drama, or watch it to learn something about groupthink, leadership, team conflict, and team dynamics. Dir: Sidney Lumet. Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, and many more greats. 1957. DVD: 96 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- The Flight of the Phoenix
- A planeload of oil workers crashes in the Sahara, and struggles to find a way to survive and to get help. Even today, this is a great adventure film, but watch it a second and third time, and more, to learn about organizational change, leadership, problem solving and team dynamics. Dir. Robert Aldrich. James Stewart, Richard Attenborough. 1965. VHS: 147 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- The Wizard of Oz
- Several times in this classic, we see the consequences of failing to nail down requirements. Still, because the team is so cohesive, it survives even these repeated surprises. Dir: King Vidor, Victor Fleming. Judy Garland, Frank Morgan. 1939. DVD: 101 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
- Here's a look at scope creep from another angle: rather than greed, we can see other causes such as unanticipated problems, lack of focus, and poor management of the team. Dir: H.C. Potter. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy. 1948. DVD: 94 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- The Bridge on the River Kwai
- Here's a great example of getting so lost in the work that we can forget what's really important. Also a study of the tension between managing the team with respect for their humanity, and managing them by force and coercion. Dir: David Lean. William Holden, Alec Guinness. 1957. DVD: 161 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- A cop thriller set in Amish country, the plot winds its way through the Amish community. We get telling glimpses of the connection between team and community, and in one marvelous sequence showing a barn raising, we see how important team and community really are. But all through the film we see examples of the importance of roles and the inherent value of all roles. Dir: Peter Weir. Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis. 1985. DVD: 112 min. Order from Amazon.com.
- Ground Hog Day
- Ever have that feeling you've been here before and can't seem to get out? Here's a hilarious fantasy that shows you a vast array of approaches for dealing with the same situation in new ways. Dir: Harold Ramis. Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell. 1993. DVD: 101 min. Order from Amazon.com.
If you have suggestions for other entries in this catalog, please send them along. But if you want to pitch an idea for a film about project management, I'll call Security. First in this series Top Next Issue
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- Thanks for the tips. I was looking for films for our boy scout troop.
- How about The Great Escape? Teamwork, coordination, planning, sabotage, the loose cannon doing his own thing (Steve McQueen) [Order from Amazon.com].
- Rick: Good one! (though fictionalized, as many are). By the way, in the end, the loose cannon did join the team — by escaping (at the behest of the "project manager") to do reconnaissance, and then letting himself be caught. Even before that, the "project manager" let him do his own thing, because the absence of any escape activity at all would have appeared suspicious. (If I recall correctly, that is) One other thought made clear in The Great Escape: the project manager asked team members to do what they did best.
- Anonymous: You are of course correct about the loose cannon, the sacrifice he made, the "project manager" using each members' special skills. By the way, another friend suggested Master and Commander too. [Order from Amazon.com] The ship as the perfect machine, a blending of men and "technology". It is a movie about complex relationships between men (not guys, so common today) and a glorious (and bloody, dirty, ugly) exploration of duty, leadership, sacrifice, responsibility, and…relaxation. An especially important point is the delicate dance to correctly gauge discipline (of absolute importance), punishment, and leniency.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Mind Reading Trap
- When we think, "Paul doesn't trust me," we could be fooling ourselves into believing that
we can read his mind. Unless he has directly expressed his distrust, we're just guessing, and we can
reach whatever conclusion we wish, unconstrained by reality. In project management, as anywhere else,
that's a recipe for trouble.
- Email Antics: I
- Nearly everyone I know complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our
own actions. If you're looking around for some New Year's resolutions to make, here are some ideas,
in this Part I of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
- If Only I Had Known: I
- Have you ever regretted saying something that you wouldn't have said if only you had known just one
more little fact? Yeah, me too. We all have. Here are some tips for dealing with this sticky situation.
- Bottlenecks: II
- When some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks," they expose the organization
to risks. Managing those risks is a first step to ending the bottlenecking pattern.
- High Falutin' Goofy Talk: II
- Speech and writing at work are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled with puff
phrases of unknown meaning and pretentious, tired images. Here's Part II of a collection of phrases
and images to avoid.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 24: Big, Complicated Problems
- Big, complicated problems can be difficult to solve. Even contemplating them can be daunting. But we can survive them if we get advice we can trust, know our resources, recall solutions to past problems, find workarounds, or as a last resort, escape. Available here and by RSS on April 24.
- And on May 1: Full Disclosure
- The term "full disclosure" is now a fairly common phrase, especially in news interviews and in film and fiction thrillers involving government employees or attorneys. It also has relevance in the knowledge workplace, and nuances associated with it can affect your credibility. Available here and by RSS on May 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- 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.
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