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The Perfect Project Management - Ocean's Eleven (2001)

February 13, 2018


Think your project is tough? Try stealing $165 million from 3 of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas, at the same time.


Beginning with a place very near and dear to my heart, Las Vegas, NV.
A city that has given me so much, but not as much as Ocean's Eleven. Coming back from the SMPS PRC in Napa last weekend, I decided to unwind by re-watching the 2001 remake on Netflix (a theatrical hit in my senior year of high school). A slow realization came over me given everything I had just learned at the conference. If Danny Ocean was a project manager, and the Bellagio Casino heist was an A/E/C project of the craziest scope, I would work with that project manager and market those services any day in a week.


The Review

A project (heist?) of this magnitude takes the planning and coordination of a lot of moving pieces. In the first 30 minutes of the film, Danny Ocean does this, but more so in preparation for the team that he needs to prepare to pull it off. He knows the skills he needs to recruit, the internal fortitude they will need, any hangups to avoid, and how to motivate his crew. The recruitment of the team is part of the fun of the movie, and as an audience, you can't help but wonder how a crew of varying levels of experience, attitude, fortitude and ambition are going to work together like so many cogs in a machine. 


Danny has a plan, and sees the qualities in his crew members even deeper than we do as an audience. As leader of the gang, and throughout the planning and execution of the heist (project?) he knows when to give and take, motivate and restrain, and even when it seems that his emotions are getting the best of him (being more internally motivated by winning back his ex-wife) he puts on his game face and takes part in the execution of his own planning. 


Give or take a few scenes of questioning and doubt, the crew members respond well to his leadership, perhaps knowing that each person brings their own experience and specific knowledge to each facet of the plan (scope?). Each character has a specialty that they provide (Linus the pickpocket, Saul the actor, Basher the demolitions,  Livingston the techie, etc) with the understanding that each is as important as the one next to it necessary to make the plan work. Even more effective is the reward, Danny Ocean makes it clear from their initial meeting that all members will receive equal shares for their part in the heist, despite their role, involvement, hours worked or presence. All are necessary and integral to the success of the outcome.


The Take

Ocean's Eleven's successful robbery of the Bellagio Casino vault is a result of teamwork and timing. Have you ever completed a project that didn't rely on teamwork and timing? In my several years of wedding planning, event sales and setup, marketing in A/E/C and even as a drivethru barista, every hour of success relied on teamwork and timing. The film makes that very clear through several plot points, and even goes so far as to create tension through loss and recovery of project time, but in watching this film it feels like the clock is always ticking; not unlike your proposal that is due at the end of the week.


What I really took away from a re-watch of this film is effective project management, and not just in coordination and planning of the job, its budget, details and execution, but in its leadership. Be like Danny Ocean, even if (his character) is an ex-felon. Recognize the expertise of your crew, pick them up when they fall, explain to them what they need to know to be successful, sacrifice when you have to and be strong when they need you. Maybe in following his example of project management and project leadership, you and your crew can walk away from the Bellagio Fountains $165 million richer.



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