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Would you hire the A-Team to run your project?

Obviously the boy in me shouts out an immediate “yes” to that question, even if it’s just a bit of grouting in the downstairs toilet.  But can we see any solid project management skills in action or is it all unplanned fire fighting chaos?  For those of you unfamiliar with the A-Team (where were you in the mid 80’s?), a quick summary…

“In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.”

First of all, let’s look at some of the characteristics of a “good” project.  It should be selected based on a solid business case, why do this project rather than something else?  It should be well planned with clear defined deliverables that achieve the desired project benefits.  The project team should be well motivated with clear roles and responsibilities.  The project team should be ready to deal with change but still focus on delivering the scope of the project to the required time, cost and quality requirements.

Every project has to balance the time, cost & quality drivers, hence the well used textbook TCQ Triangle – improving quality might increase time and cost, reducing time can reduce quality and increase cost.  I’m sure we are all familiar with this conundrum.

Let’s look at the A-Team team structure first of all.  Given their military background they are used to clear lines of management reporting and problem escalation.  They are also a well developed project team, having gone through the Forming, Norming & Storming stages of team development (as defined by Bruce Tuckman) back in Vietnam (one assumes), they are very much a Performing project team with clear understanding of each others skills, roles and responsibilities.  This puts them at a significant advantage over the bad guys who invariably don’t display the same project team maturity.

The Project Manager is clearly Colonel John Smith (aka Hannibal after the famous Carthaginian General who utilised unconventional tactics).  Hannibal has a calm & confident nature and backs his team members 100%.  He has a natural ability for Risk Management as demonstrated in “The Maltese Cow”:

“Now, if you had taken the trouble to look, you would know that I’ve got an 8 round, 9mm, pointed at you under the table. Now the question is, which one of us is gonna get hurt worse when we open fire. Go ahead! Do it, Sucker!”

He has weighed up the situation and realised the probability of the risk happening was low, even if the impact of the risk on project success was very high.

Hannibal was keenly aware of the skills of his project team and used them effectively.  Stakeholder management was assigned to Lieutenant Templeton Peck (aka Face due to his boy-ish good looks).  His communication skills were excellent.  He was able to use his influencing skills to change any negative stakeholder into positive.  He also used similar skills to source project equipment so was also invariably given responsibility for procurement (famously stealing the first aid kit from Colonel Deckers HQ after Murdoch takes a bullet for Hannibal in “Curtain Call”).

Sergeant Bosco Baracus (aka BA for his “bad attitude”) was the expert mechanic and project team muscle.  If the stick was needed, rather than the carrot (more Face territory) then BA was your man.  The final member of the A-Team was Captain H.M “Howling Mad” Murdoch, an expert flyer who could pilot any and every aircraft.

Any regular watcher of the A-Team knows that the project scope was pretty similar each week, making project planning much easier for Hannibal – he is highly experienced in this type of project and can pull on many lessons learned as part of his plan development.

Each project runs through the standard phases; pre-project, project initiation, implementation and closeout.

Pre-project focuses on developing the business case.  Why should the A-Team undertake this project rather than anything else, after all they have limited resource just like any organisation and need to maximise their return on investment.  Fortunately, return on investment for the A-Team is measure in good deeds and the selection of the project is usually straight forward.

For those of you not familiar with 80’s TV, the scope usually involved the elimination (I’m relieved to say no one was every seriously injured) of bad guys who were making life rough for some good old folk in a part of the country away from the non-bribed arm of the law.

Project initiation involves a good deal of planning and stakeholder management.  Face plays a particularly important role at this point bring negative stakeholders (the more sceptical good old folk) onboard with their project proposal.

At this point the scope of the project and the desired benefits are clear.  Hannibal, being very familiar with this type of project, was able to mobilise and commence project implementation very quickly with a clear focus on project delivery (eliminate bad guys) as illustrated in “Mission of Peace”

Hannibal: First thing we’re gonna do is give ’em a pop in the eye, let ’em know things are gonna be different.
Lady (or Project Steering Committee Member): I like that. I really like that!

As with any complex project the A-Team found themselves dealing with events outside of the original scope (they got captured by the bad guys), however they, under Hannibal’s clear and calm project leadership were able to implement project recover plans.

Amy: “Hannibal’s plans never work right. They just work.”

Invariably project recovery lead to a pull on BAs technical expertise (build some sort of armoured vehicle out of bits found in a garage they were locked in), and overtime hours (the A-Team would commit 100% to a project and work overtime and even weekends).  Once Hannibal successfully recovered the project, then they were able to deliver benefits in a timely manner (round up the bad guys).

Hannibal: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

In completing a cold hard assessment of their project performance it has to be said that they invariably went over budget, having agreed to limited funding that was unrealistic given the scope of the project.  A good Project Manager would never have agreed to the scope of work given the allocated funding.  The A-Team were therefore focused on Quality and Time within the TCQ Triangle, but paid less attention to Cost.

So, if you have a Quality and Time driven project and no-one else can help you, maybe you could hire the A-Team.  If they aren’t available however, feel free to contact us here at Wellingtone Project Management.

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