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What ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ teaches us about project management

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The classic 1975 British comedy film concerning the Arthurian legend, written and performed by the Monty Python comedy group is a cult classic, one of my favourite movies to quote from and funny if you get the sense of humour. Not a high budget movie, but somehow it works. And as I was showing clips of its funniest scenes to my kids the other day, I realised that the movie also could teach us some important concepts about project management. It may be a stretch, but let's consider...

Overconfidence may cut you off at the knees. Well that or leave you legless and armless in the case of the Black Knight. The Black Knight responds with “tis but a scratch” as his first extremity is removed by King Arthur's sword. Eventually his stubbornness, and failure to admit defeat or work with his issue at hand, causes him to lose all four extremities. If we are too stubborn on our projects, stick to bad decisions in the face of better judgement and information, or refuse to work with our adversaries (sometimes the client?) in a productive manner to accomplish goals, we may fail miserably and lose our limbs in the process. Best practices and logical choices = success. Communication and collaboration = success. Stubbornly holding our ground in the worst scenario and stating “none shall pass” may result in much blood loss.

Stick with your first choice as much as possible. Changing your mind when making big decisions can confuse and frustrate your team and cause them and the project client to lose faith in your ability to lead. And in the case of brave Sir Robin it cost him his life on the Bridge of Death when he couldn’t even answer with his own favourite colour with confidence.

Take your project and resources seriously. Just as King Arthur took his quest for the Holy Grail seriously, so too should we take each of our projects seriously. The money we are playing with is not our own - it is our project client’s, so we want to manage each project effectively, efficiently and as productively as possible.

The little things can kill. Remember the killer bunny? He looked soft and cuddly but he took down five... no three of King Arthur’s men before they killed it with the holy hand grenade. Don’t underestimate the damage that the small issues can cause a project.

Team members who say why. Team members who constantly ask us why we are doing this and why we are doing that can be a pain. I am very blessed to have enough of that at home with my six little ones. But a team full of resources who say “no” is not what I’m looking for when leading a project. Some questioning is healthy, but if you ask me “why?” constantly I may send you home with a shrubbery.

Plan well when trying to reach your goals successfully. Yes, the Trojan Horse worked in the story of the Trojan War, but it didn't work so well for King Arthur, King of the Britons in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when they built a Trojan Bunny. They pushed it to the wall of the enemy as a gift to get inside and hopefully find the sacred cup only to forget to put any of their men inside the big bunny for a secret attack and the enemy catapulted it back at them to screams of “Run away! Run away!” Complete fail. Cause? Lack of sufficient thought or planning. On projects, when trying to reach milestones, deliverables and the end of the project, all it takes is proper and complete detailed planning. Failure to plan is planning to fail.

Summary / call for input

I had fun comparing project management to the cult classic and crazy quotable movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. What are your thoughts on this list? I want to hear them whether you’ve seen the movie or are in that 1% who has never seen a second of it. Does this list of concepts and frustrations match up with your own project leadership experiences? Customer interfaces? Tech team leadership? Please share and discuss.

Image: Peter Gudella/Shutterstock.com

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  1. Gary Batchelor
    Gary Batchelor 02 August 2019, 04:23 AM

    Brought a smile to my face and a new outlook on one of my favourite films, just goes to show that there are lessons to be learnt from the past if only we know where to look!