How to Solve Project Problems: 5 Takeaways from Defeating Movie Villains

LokiandAvengersHave you ever felt like a mighty hero dealing with your project’s problems? You don’t need to have a superpower to defeat project issues, but it might be useful to learn a thing or two from the ways that notorious movie villains were overpowered.

Voldemort: say the name

“He who shall not be named” was defeated not long after he was…well, named. Charles Kettering, the famed inventor and head of research for GM, once said “a problem well-stated is half-solved.” So, before you rush to search for a solution, make sure you identify your issue first. Studies recommend stating it in one sentence as it helps you extract the main problem from a potentially complex situation.

Khan: ask “why”

The main villain of the recent Star Trek into Darkness movie seemed ruthless and irrational in the beginning, but only until the real reasons for his actions were revealed. After you state the problem, you need to get to the root of it. To do so, try using the “5 why’s” technique. The idea is simple; you start by asking, “Why did this occur?” and in doing so, you unwrap the problem layer by layer, until the root cause becomes apparent. And then, just as Captain Kirk was able to use Khan’s reasons for vengeance against him, you’ll be able to separate the symptoms and attack the heart of the problem.

Loki: gang up

This Norse god along with a Chitauri army was too much to chew for a single hero, but when the Avengers united their forces, he didn’t stand a chance. Likewise, remember that when dealing with a project issue, two heads are better than one. When you brainstorm a solution, try the creative problem solving technique called the “Six Thinking Hats.” Created by Edward de Bono, the author of “lateral thinking” term, this technique suggests using the actual colored hats that represent the different ways to look at a problem. Thus, when a team member puts on a white hat he needs to look purely at the facts, wearing the black one – describe the issue’s downsides, and under the yellow one – find its bright sides.

Just keep in mind that some experts like Ralph Keeney, the author of Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decision-Making, suggest coming to group brainstorms with a couple of possible solutions prepared. This way, you have a lower risk of getting fixated on the idea suggested by your teammate.

The Wicked Witch of the West: the simpler the better

Remember Occam’s razor? The simplest solution is often the best one. The powerful witch of Oz was eventually killed by simple water. And McDonald’s earned millions of dollars in profit by simply starting to ask “Would you like some fries with that?”

When you are choosing a solution, make sure you are able to explain it clearly and precisely in 30 seconds or less. The 80/100 formula can be effective as well. According to this formula, it’s better to go for the solution that solves 80% of the problem, but is 100% implementable by the team, rather than the 100% solution that is unlikely to ever be implemented.

Freddy Krueger: 9,10…never sleep again

Once the issue is resolved, your next task is to minimize the chances of it repeating itself. Just like the kids from Elm Street needed to stay awake to defeat the nightmare villain, you need to stay alert to detect any warning signs of the possible problem. Make sure that the lessons from the recent “battle” make you stronger as a project manager. Good project management software will support you in carefully planning your project in advance, avoiding common management dangers and destroying any sequel chance for your project “villains”! 😉

Can you think of some more epic movie battles that can teach a project manager a lesson or two? Let us know!

Note: this week’s article is a guest post by Wrike, a provider of social project management software

Categories: Project Management | Tags: | Leave a comment

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