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December 13th, 2008

We started watching Leverage this week. Best thought of as an American version of the BBC's rather fun grifter story Hustle, it pits the wits of a crew of assorted thieves against the dark underbelly of America's corporate kleptocracy. The thieves are the good guys, robin hooding their way through assorted cons and capers, extracting money and revenge from the corporate crooks.

Leaving aside the obvious parallels with the current state of the economy, there's an interesting thread that links this and other caper stories.

They're tales of project management.

No, really.

If you look at Leverage as an example, we have a team of misfits, creative people who under normal circumstances can't function in society, let alone as a team. Then along comes a man with vision and project management skills, who can find ways to fit those skills and resources into a project plan, and then execute it. He only operates on the fringes of the action, listening and guiding.

The same is true of George Clooney's Danny Ocean in his trilogy of films. Danny and Rusty are a project management team that builds on the strengths of the various individuals, manipulating them where necessary. Danny Ocean leads from behind.

The list goes on. How about Mickey Bricks in Hustle, running a crew and training a successor at the same time? You could argue that the fourth season of the series was Danny Blue learning project management skills on the fly. And how about Michael Caine's role in The Italian Job (and yes, even the role played by Mark Wahlberg in the film with the same name)?

I'm finding it interesting to rethink old favourites in this light - and it's giving me more ideas around the caper story I've been noodling with on and off for some time now. Somewhere out there are a firm of consultants who outsource caper management.

"Crime process management", anyone?