Why production people make kick-ass project managers

Are filmmakers (in the broadest sense of the word) just particularly pragmatic, or why do I get a sense that many of the issues discussed in project management research are basics 101 stuff for production people?

As part of my current studies I just read an article from the MIT Sloan Management Review called ‘What Great Projects Have in Common’ (online version here). It struck me, that any decent film or TV show production has to tick all the seven boxes to succeed – and projects like that are completed daily around the world!

The common factors according to the article are:

1.) That the project involves a unique competitive advantage (read: compelling plot and characters).

2.) That it starts with a long period of project definition, including a powerful vision, clear need and defining the best approach (development, anyone?).

3.) That what the authors call ‘great projects’ also create a revolutionary project culture (happens in most assembled-for-this-project-only productions).

4.) That a ‘great project’ needs a highly qualified project leader who is unconditionally supporteded by top management (read: producer and director).

5.) That ‘great projects’ maximize use of existing knowledge (animation productions re-using assets, plug-ins etc all the time).

6.) That project teams have fast problem-solving capability and the ability to adapt to changes (any production team that does not fit this bill is dead in the water).

7.) That a team of a ‘great project’ has a strong sense of partnership and pride (even the smallest audiovisual productions are made by teams that take great pride in their handiwork. Which is exactly why I love this industry).

It all kind of reminded me of this Steven Soderbergh interview with Vulture, where he talks about how the US government should have given the job of handling the hurricane Katrina evacuations to a movie studio.


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