034 – PM Superhero Smackdown! Kate and Kim share lessons from their favorite movie PMs

034 – PM Superhero Smackdown! Kate and Kim share lessons from their favorite movie PMs

This episode, Kate and Kim talk about their favorite Project Managers from the big screen and small screen – and what lessons we can take away from them. From big-screen capers to everybody’s favorite movie PM (who is “here to put you BACK on schedule, commander”… because the sponsor is not as forgiving as he is… 🙂 )

Laughs aside, media are a big part of everyone’s lives, and these characters and plots are part of our culture – as should be project management. So, get some popcorn, listen to OUR pics for best movie PMs, then join the conversation on our website or FB – tell us which PMs we missed! And which movie project sponsor you are SO GLAD you don’t have.


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Check out this episode!

Show Notes

Here’s the list of our favorite movie characters who we think are great PMs, and the lessons we learned from them.

1. The Terminator from The Terminator [3:55]

Unrelenting, he can’t be bargained with, he doesn’t feel pity or remorse- and will never stop until the project is done.

2. Leslie Nope from Parks and Rec [4:43]

She cannot be stopped, is always positive, and extremely organized. She documents everything in a binder, and has a plan for a plan. Leslie also has an utmost dedication in making sure that her team is doing the right thing all the time.

3. Danny Ocean from Ocean’s Eleven [6:11]

Even though Danny Ocean does not have the same level of energy as most project managers do, anyone would agree he has amazing skills in planning, recruitment, motivation, and risk management. He has an incredible ability of convincing people to do something they don’t want to for a project to get done. He also has more than a small amount of gravitas in planning, motivation, and stakeholder management.

4. Pearl from Steven Universe [7:18]

Pearl is one of the gems that Steven knows and lives within his universe. She’s extremely detail oriented, and loves a good plan. When Pearl creates a plan, you can expect that she’ll have an immense commitment to its details and execution. But, if there’s a need for change, she will be open to it and will easily let go of her control. Pearl has an impressive ability of listening to what people want and in creating a plan out of it.

5. “The Wolf” from Pulp Fiction [9:21]

The Wolf’s job is to take control of situations where there are blood and brains splattered everywhere within a very tight timeframe. He is the “go to” guy in fixing things that are extremely out of hand. The Wolf can easily sort things out
and get things done- once he sees his stakeholder upset, he comes up with a suggestion to clean up the mess and to make him feel better. He obviously has a suave and professional level of calmness in the midst of crisis and in delivering bad news. Being considered “The Wolf” in project management can give you the extreme pride of being known as someone who can fix a hot mess.

6. Commander Shepard of Mass Effect 3 [12:56]

Commander Shepard had to garner a lot of stakeholders support in order to take out the Reapers. In the process, you’ll see that her actions are tracked based on “effective military strength” vs. “total military strength”, which is dependent on her “readiness score”. When you play the game, part of the lessons you’ll learn is what you value in terms of building supporters in your project. If all you care about is your strongest project and you don’t value the relationships you have, you’ll look like crap by the end of the game. Yes, you might win, but it will be brutal. And if you choose to protect your relationship, there are some things you’ll have to compromise but in return, what you’ll get is a much more peaceful galaxy.

7. Nick Fury of MCU [18:08]

Nick Fury places so much value on team building. He finds, recruits, and motivates the right talents in order to achieve his project objective- which is saving the human civilization. Although, you might see him as more of a program manager, as for each mission his main responsibility is to tell the leads of the project what they need to do to make sure that everyone is working towards the same goal.

8. Mark Watney from The Martian [20:12]

In the book, Mark Watney is a good technical PM. The math problems he solves take excellent planning, and he considers contingency within this even though he’s on extremely limited budget. Like Pearl, he knows what he needs to do based on the resources he has on hand. You will also love his communication plan as he crossed the planet and was out of range of communications’ gear. New project managers might feel the same way as Mark felt while he was on Mars, especially when they’re working on their first projects; you badly need help, but no one from home is giving it to you.

9. Commander Holdo from The Last Jedi [26:04]

Commander Holdo created a plan based on the ‘why’ for the rebellion, and delivered what her stakeholders truly needed – a way to continue to survive in a desperate situation. She knows what her priority is, and she strategized a scheme to execute it seamlessly, and part of her strategy is not tell anybody about her plan in order to minimize risks. Holdo is ultimately extremely dedicated to the success of her idea.

Movie Characters Who Are Bad PMs [31:26]

1. John Hammond of Jurassic Park [31:33]

John Hammond is the owner and the inspiration behind opening Jurassic Park. One of his main failures is bringing in the experts after he built his park and by then it’s too late.

2. The People Eater from Mad Max Fury Road [32:36]

Although he’s certainly good at resource tracking, you wouldn’t want The People Easter as a PM as he loudly announces the status of resources spent. He also does not have any escalation or people skills, accepts when things suck, and just whines about it rather than trying to fix it.

3. Titanic PM either from the movie or real life [35:00]

In the movie you’ll see how they failed in budgeting for risks, lack quality control, and and poor risk management.

4. Samuel L. Jackson’s character in The Kingsman [35:45]

His character in the movie did not complete risk planning activities, did not plan for contingency, or listen to the risks of having a combustible chip in so many people all in the same place – including his own head!

5. Darth Vader from Star Wars [37:55]

There are so many ways for a PM to motivate his team, and sadly for Darth Vader, it’s through force and fear. On top of this, he has a wrong definition of success. If you’re working with this type of PM or stakeholder, find a graceful way to exit.

SO, who is YOUR favorite Movie Superhero? Hit us on FB and let us know!
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Home Forums 034 – PM Superhero Smackdown! Kate and Kim share lessons from their favorite movie PMs

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    Kim Essendrup

    I'm sorry, you are not authorized to view this page. Why not sign up for a membership so you can get access to this and even more content!

    Sylvia RussellSylvia Russell

    Just listened to this Podcast! Now I will be looking at movies and other media in a whole new way…. as if I was not already geekie enough looking at coaching and mentoring themes.

    Contrasting great PM traits with not go great ones was fun as well.

    Keep these engaging podcasts coming!


    Kate AndersonKate Anderson

    Yesss!  Do you have a favorite fictional PM?

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