As a marketing agency project manager, I can’t help but notice project management when I go to the movies. I can think of at least five movie plots featuring high-profile projects that go disastrously wrong — project managers must overcome obstacles ranging from suicidal clients to homicidal vendors. Read on to see how they made it all work.
- 100-foot tall marshmallow-based stakeholder missed the kickoff meeting but demands creative control and out-of-scope revisions. (Tweet this!)
- Poor new-hire onboarding leads to confusion regarding corporate policies, such as whether it is appropriate to cross the streams.
- Mission-critical ghost containment systems lack backup power supplies.
Result: Mankind hasn’t been destroyed or enslaved yet. But since there was a movie sequel and two TV spinoffs, I think we can confidently conclude that the first ghost-busting project failed to address the root cause.
2) Bridge on the River Kwai
- Managers refuse to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, citing the Geneva Convention.
- Major scope creep, including quicksand and project managers locked in solitary confinement. (Tweet this!)
- Client keeps threatening to commit ritual suicide if the project isn’t completed on deadline.
Result: Even with the comp’d out-of-scopes, team completes development on time, only for a rival agency to dynamite the deliverable during go-live.
3) Back to the Future
Project Brief: Build a Delorean-based time machine in a residential garage, using plutonium stolen from Libyan terrorists.
- Returning to 1985 requires precise team-wide coordination on a tight deadline, before lightning strikes the courthouse at precisely 10:04pm.
- Must avoid interrupting the space-time continuum.
- Your plutonium fuel vendor had hired your agency to build a bomb, but your prima donna Creative Director has decided to divert the client’s resources to finish his pet project instead. (Tweet this!)
Result: Two sequels.
Project Brief: Build the largest ship ever made, to re-take market share in the competitive Trans-Atlantic transportation market.
- Technical plan did not incorporate iceberg-related edge cases, where more than 4 watertight compartments flood while at sea. (Tweet this!)
- Prior to maiden voyage, company failed to recover company property after reassigning manager who accidentally kept the keys to the crow’s nest binoculars cabinet.
- Architect eliminated extra lifeboats due to UX considerations, as the boats would block the end-users’ view from First Class Promenade Deck. (Tweet this!)
Result: Most senior stakeholders die during go-live, which makes it difficult to hold an effective project post-mortem meeting.
5) Apollo 13
- Subzero temperatures, carbon dioxide poisoning, and the endless vacuum of space.
- Cold War-era project failure has Space Race political ramifications.
- NASA must bring the team back using only the resources already contained in the capsule — there is not an unlimited supply of duct tape. (Tweet this!)
Result: Duct tape and teamwork saves the day and everyone survives. A few decades later, upper management axes the successor Space Shuttle program, leading the prime contractor to lay off half the team.
How can you use this in marketing?
As you can see, project management is all around us. For more on the topic, see LiquidPlanner’s “Movies That Were Great at Project Management.”
Question: What’s your favorite big-screen project management moment? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, under Fair Use