I always found the narrative in the tape scenes in the Mission: Impossible TV movies amusing: “Your mission SHOULD you choose to accept it…” The word “should” implies a choice that IMF team leaders and project managers rarely are able to take advantage of.
This is not the only analogy that could be drawn between the series and the life of a project manager so let me present a few more points of similarity.
- “As always, should you or any of your I.M. Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.” – Project managers are often the scapegoats for projects that failed long before they were assigned.
- Infinite diversity in infinite combinations – while the IMF team leader had some discretion in choice of resources for a given mission, many times he was provided specific team members, some of whom did not play nice with each other, and yet, would still have to plan and execute a successful mission. This was the most apparent in the first movie where Ethan Hunt is able to get his three team members to execute the Langley file retrieval in spite of the fact that two of the three were actually plotting against him!
- If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – although the missions handed to the teams are usually quite challenging, the series regularly showed the benefits of the planning work done to achieve success.
- The team leader shouldn’t lead from behind – while the average project manager won’t be expected to scale the sides of the Burj Khalifa, Ethan Hunt’s willingness to pitch in and apply his specialized skills to the mission while not undermining the role and skills of his team demonstrates a degree of balance that is sometimes missed by PMs.
- Be like water – okay, this one is a stretch, but the use of those amazing face masks in both the series and the movies is a good reminder that successful project managers do need to adapt to a situation and should sometimes be chameleons.
- No peace for the wicked – at the conclusion of the first movie, when Ethan is looking forward to some much needed downtime, he is presented with a new mission. This should sound familiar to most PMs who lament the lack of a break between projects!
This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, fellow PM!