Summit 7 Team Blogs

Project Manager and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Have you ever felt like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark when it comes to projects and their project plans?  You think you have planned for everything: all risks are defined, your timeline is in place and things are proceeding as planned - what could go wrong?  You have the treasure in your hand; you take a deep breath, relieved …. and then it happens just like in any good action movie … tarantulas, gaping pits, lethal spikes, arrows, and a huge rolling boulder to name a few of the dangers that Indiana has to overcome, only to now realize a seemingly impossible scope, with few resources, a ridiculous timeline  and sponsorship issues.  So let’s go to the movies…

Indy is given what appears to be an Impossible Scope of finding the long-lost Ark of the Covenant. At the same time the Nazis are already searching for the Ark because Hitler hopes to use it to make his army invincible. However to find the Ark, Indy must first secure a medallion kept under the protection of Indy's old friend, whose daughter, Marion evidently has a "history" with Indy. At first glance it would appear the project scope “Find the lost Ark of the Covenant” is easy enough. However in project planning, the project scope is a critical step. If you do not define your project scope clearly considering the many possible factors, project scope  management and execution is almost impossible.

We have all been there when we have been assigned a project only to find out just how Few Resources, funding and people, we will have to complete it.  Whatever their personal differences, Indy and Marion become partners in one action-packed adventure after another: ranging from wandering the snake pits of the Well of Souls to surviving the unearthing of the sacred  Ark. But just like in most projects one or more of your resources have competing agendas (Marion was in it at times just to make Indy suffer for his past mistakes) and when you have been given two resources and one is on a different agenda that can really make it tough to complete your project.  So acquiring the right resources is essential to having a successful project and allows the project to run smoothly.

Now admit it we have all created a Ridiculous Timeline at one time or another for a project or two. Indy's mission/timeline: beat the Nazis to the prize; oh by the way did I mention the Nazis have an army looking for the ark and they have already been looking for it for a while. So he flies to Tibet, collects Marion and the priceless medallion that holds the secret of the Ark's location, and then tries to outsmart the Nazis all in a matter of days. I know there have been times when I am managing a project and the timeline is so tight (ridiculous) I was certain someone had to change my estimates.  I mean surely I did not plan this badly. Having good project estimates is the key to setting a realistic timeline.

Well surely none of you have ever had Sponsorship Issues. For Indy his sponsor is Army Intelligence so you know starting out here is going to be issues.  The agents authorize Indy to recover the Ark with the promise of displaying it in a museum. However back in Washington, D.C. once Indy brings the Ark to them, the Army intelligence agents tells Indy that the Ark "is someplace safe" to be studied by "top men". In reality, the Ark is sealed in a wooden crate labeled "top secret" and stored in a giant government warehouse filled with countless similar crates. It is always important to make sure you (the Project Manager) and your Sponsor(s) are on the same page and share the same understanding of what the outcomes will be for a successful project. I mean what one person calls a museum could be a government warehouse to another.

Raiders of the Lost Ark reminds us how important it is to apply a sense of humor to even the most uproariously ridiculous and often craziest of situations that can happen when you are managing  your projects. And as in any great action movie once the credits roll and we celebrate the win….We are already looking forward to the next great adventure….And that my friends is why I love Project Management, it is always an adventure….Until next month at movies have a Happy Thanksgiving…

About Brenda Perry