The A Team Project Manager

John Hannibal Smith was not a project manager, but he may as well have been. Only a select few people enjoy a plan that comes together, after all. Sure, not every project manager can be a leather glove wearing, cigar smoking, righteous soldier of fortune blowing up everything in his path while impersonating a laundromat owner. (We can all wish, though.) But every project manager can learn a few lessons from The A Team. The A Team project manager was known to keep his cool under fire, and always cleverly outwitted his obstacles. He is a leader, who knew how to motivate his team and utilize their skills to achieve the goals he sets. And he was a planning master.

The A Team van

Planning Is Important – Even When It Doesn’t Work

The A Team project manager knows that planning is crucial. Like fortune and luck, success comes to those who are prepared. One of the calling cards of The A Team was that even when things didn’t go according to plan, the plan would somehow work out in the end. This is often true in real life, too. Creating a robust project plan is not just about having a plan. It’s about structuring a project to withstand outside challenges, internal issues, and anything else that might derail the project. By creating a robust project plan, a project manager is actually inspecting every nook and cranny of a project. This builds familiarity, and gives the kind of mastery and total recall that makes a project manager successful.

The A Team Project Manager Plans For The Long Term

The A Team project manager’s manifesto is neatly encapsulated in these few moments of the movie from 2010. “One step ahead of the game isn’t a plan, kid. Two to three steps ahead – beating an enemy’s move, before it’s even made. THAT”S a plan.” And sure enough, by the time the move is made, the pieces are exactly where they’re supposed to be – and don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Planning a complex project is no different. If your eyes are on one to two weeks ahead, you don’t really have a plan. You have a schedule. Planning is always for the long term – how do you structure your project so that what’s needed is available? What’s the plan if a vendor disappears? The A Team project manager is thinking two to three steps ahead, and bending the weekly workflow to ensure everything is where it needs to be for the next three steps in the project. THAT’S a plan.

Keep Your Cool Under Fire

You can’t fly a tank. That is true. But if your project finds you needing to fly a tank, it helps if you have the nerves of steel you need to figure out how to do it. Deadlines are stressful, there’s no doubt about that. The project manager with the presence of mind needed to make adjustments on the fly (sorry, that joke writes itself) can negotiate a successful outcome.

The A Team Project Manager Has A History

Did you know? John Hannibal Smith’s character was named, and modeled, after the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca. Hannibal was a master strategist who would plot his battles with his team’s strengths and opponent’s weaknesses in mind. Hannibal is famous for marching his army through the Alps to confront Rome – Rome’s navy was stronger than what Hannibal had at his disposal, so he took the “impossible” route instead. Hannibal stayed in Roman territory with his army for fifteen years, carrying out raids and harassing Roman troops. He did not win the Second Punic War, but he did carry out his objectives. The first A Team Project Manager succeeded where no one thought he had a chance.