Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Sci-Fi Project Management Lessons

As we navigate our crazy, busy lives, we tend to watch TV and movies to escape. We don’t necessarily think of movies as a way to get advice on how to succeed as project managers. But, maybe we should!  According to Intuit, here is some project  management advice from Sci-Fi movies you may have seen: 

Star Trek
In “Remember Me,” an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, crewmembers of the Enterprise are dropping. And as the crew’s complement dwindles down to one, only Dr. Beverly Crusher remembers them.  Rather than give in to the oblivion of a fugue state, she decides to apply logic: “If there’s nothing wrong with me, maybe there’s something wrong with the universe.” After asking the computer questions, Beverly pieces together the puzzle.

Thinking outside the box is a good way to spot problems in a project’s design. And sometimes the bigger the problem the harder it is to spot. It’s valuable to challenge your assumptions as your project progresses, especially while there’s time to make adjustments.

Policeman Alex Murphy was minding his own business when he was killed by a crazed cocaine dealer, and later served as the prototype for Robocop. Using Murphy’s memories, Robocop tracks down the man responsible for his murder who turns out to be OCP’s senior president Dick Jones. When Robocop reveals Dick’s involvement, Dick grabs OCP’s chairman hostage. He shouts, “Dick, you’re fired.” With that, Robocop became free to prejudice Dick with a Beretta 93R Auto 9.

Even if your first project goes down in flames, it doesn’t mean that a better project can’t be built out of its remains. It helps to think of any project as the prototype to come after. Also, agile thinking can save many a project in a crisis. If you’ve been challenging your assumptions, you can come up with flashes of insight when that awkward question comes up in the board presentation. Project managers have to think on their feet. Just don’t rely on quick thinking as a substitute for actually having a project plan.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy always worked the night shift, but in the episode “Doublemeat Palace,” she has to take on a day job. The only place that will hire someone with no visible skills? A fast food chain. Buffy is soon fired. When Buffy, asks for her job back, Buffy’s manager Lorraine rehires her and dishes out motivation. Pointing to her “5 years” button, Lorraine tells her, “I want you to be shooting for this from here on out.”

Motivating your team members is one of the most important things you can do. An interested contributor does better work, and that’s true whether she is your star performer or just working on the line.

Batman Begins
Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, hasn’t had much time to spend at the office of Wayne Enterprises, or even in Gotham itself, what with all his training to become an ice ninja. When he returns, he sees how his father’s company has been run by CEO William Earle. Earle even fired Lucius Fox for questioning the disappearance of a microwave emitter. which implies that Earle knew more about the Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul’s psychotropic toxin than the movie admitted to. Bruce fires Earle and puts Fox in charge, where he’ll be doing double-duty as CEO and Batman’s version of Q.

Team building is harder than it looks because even the most talented people can mix like oil and fire if the chemistry is off. Don’t be afraid to reassign the best people to other projects if they’re not a good fit for the others on the team It’s nobody’s fault if a team-up doesn’t work.

Hot on the heels of realizing that ghosts do indeed exist, three scientists quickly lose their university funding, their laboratories, and, in Dr. Peter Venkman’s case, the chance to score with naive college girls. But Venkman’s plan is to go into business, “professional paranormal investigations and eliminations.”

That weird idea that nobody else in the organization believes in? Project managers don’t always direct the course of the company, but if you can identify an interesting project, you can bring it to the attention of people who do. 
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