A movie that starts happily with a kid running a paper boat on the streets ends up an ongoing nightmare. It actually has so much in common with managing projects doomed to failure from the outset. Let’s see what we can do to avoid getting a red balloon from Pennywise and floating in our project environments too.
1. Zoom in from Macro to Micro Management
In the opening scene our pseudo-leader, Bill, loses his brother because he can’t monitor Georgie’s activity. Even though micromanagement doesn’t seem the best way to coordinate resources at first glance, there are some problems that can only be solved with the involvement of senior leaders. Newcomers to your industry won’t mind being monitored, so it’s best to zoom in on their workflow to get the gist of what’s happening on the workfloor. When you’re able to say what your employees are doing and track their progress in real time, your project simply has a better chance of surviving.
2. Adopt the Proper Leadership Style
When you’re alone as a kid, the monsters see you as weaker. You don’t even know they’re getting closer. Until it’s too late. – Stanley Uris
The lesson we learn from Georgie’s death is that when we forget about our resources, we let our projects slide. In the beginning, Bill chooses the wrong style of leadership, preferring to delegate rather than direct. Georgie needs to be managed in a specific way with definite priorities and total control. Not paying proper attention to employees who badly need help and direction can be detrimental for your projects. Although Georgie knows all the dangers that can entrap him, Pennywise still finds a trick to eat him. Georgie would not have fallen for this trick if his brother had been more helpful in giving instructions.
3. Don’t Leave Project Planning to Chance
Although Agile principles have become dominant in the PM world and oppose the concept of planning paradigms, detailed and thorough planning is the key to project success. But planning isn’t only about proper monitoring and control. A project manager without a plan is like a traveller without a map – neither will be able to achieve their goals efficiently.
Read more: How to Prioritize Like World Class Leaders
4. Add Resource Buffers to Your Projects
It’s a given that even if project managers, senior leaders, and business experts are aware of the pitfalls awaiting them, there’s always some uncertainty that makes the paper boat fall into the sewer. Trying to get the boat without support, you will most likely lose it. Bill covers his paper boat with wax to prevent it from getting soaked. This wax represents a time buffer – it can prolong the life of the boat, though it doesn’t stop it from entering the project red zone. It’s a good idea to help a critical resource by adding buffers to the project in advance (to help Georgie make the right decision).
Learn from expert advice on how to prevent project failure.
5. Predict Project Milestones and Obstacles
Georgie’s epic fall as the result of colliding with a barricade is perhaps the most dramatic action that leads to a vicious circle of events. From the moment his paper boat floats into the hands of Pennywise, the clown gains full control over the situation, offering Georgie a red balloon. Can you see the painful color analogy? To avoid getting trapped in the danger zone, leaders can project out to an arbitrary milestone.
6. Never Let a Failed Project Become Your Fear
It’s a simple truth that one failed project doesn’t mean your performance is doomed. Luckily, Bill not only interprets the death of his brother as his biggest failure but also sees the need to find out what actually went wrong, leading to the salvation of other potential victims.
7. Prevent Overload with Effective Resource Allocation Techniques
By far the most vital lesson project managers can learn from Bill is related to his resource allocation tactics. When the children are first entering Pennywise’s vault, Bill doesn’t mind saving energy, so he leaves a few team members to guard outside and ensures that the next time they enter all together, his team will be less burdened with fear. He has an individual approach to every member of his team and keeps motivating them to stand together despite resource conflicts and diverging interests. With his team, Bill undertakes a project that aims to destroy Pennywise and prevent other children from suffering.
Check out how to restore the focus of your teams.
8. Let Humor into the Workplace
It’s always a good idea to inject humor into your work environment. As a matter of fact, there’s a connection between humor and project success. At the PMI Global Congress, project experts determined that maintaining a positive, fun culture can alleviate tension in overwhelming project situations. This is also shown in the movie, where scary moments are blurred with humor and irony.
9. Plan Based on Your Team’s Strengths
If we stick together, all of us. We’ll win. – Bill Denbrough
Don’t forget that Ben Hanscom is efficient at collecting useful information, Mike Hanlon has the perfect weapon, Richie Tozier has a flair for communication, and so on. Combined, these skills help our characters complete their project on time. The film shows that it’s difficult to confront Pennywise alone, as the clown always finds a way to scare a child to death. The strength of the children is in mutual support and cooperation as they help each other overcome their fears.
If you have a similar Pennywise-like PM issue threatening your projects, we’re eager to solve it for you with Epicflow! Just sign up below for a demonstration and our team of experts will show you the right weapon.
It: Chapter One, 2017. Directed by Andy Muschietti.
PMI 2013: Developing your humor skills for project success.