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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?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 13th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
"Crime process management", anyone?

Wow. Never thought of it that way...

And damn, that's a perfect match for my skillset. No wonder I love caper movies.
Dec. 13th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
Surely this has always been the basis of series like Mission Impossible and The A-Team ??

Though in recent years my involvement as a troubleshooter on .gov.uk IT projects has felt much more like an episode of The Prisoner in that it's utterly impossible to work out just who is running things.
Dec. 13th, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
And films like The Great Escape (and maybe The Magnificent Seven). Any time you have a film with a large star cast about working to a predefined goal in an adversarial environment, using people, money and resources to achieve a benefit, there's going to be an element of project management.

Back to crime movies, there's also Redford and Newman's The Sting.

Somebody sad should post Gantt charts of the plots of these movies :-)
Dec. 14th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
That's probably because no single person or entity IS running things in central government projects!
The PM is handcuffed by budget and time constraints and will be getting conflicting steers from both the stakeholders and their own boss, then the minister will step in with pressure in yet a different direction. Meanwhile either PWC or Accenture will be called in to "advise" and their view based on 5 minutes in the building will be taken as the only possible solution.
Then you get the fact that no-one really wants to have overall responsibility, because that way they can't be blamed when things go titsup.
Dec. 13th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Outsourcing a crime caper is surely buying time on a botnet..
Dec. 13th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Caper movies are great. But should I really add that sort of thing to my jobsearch? :)
Dec. 14th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
Do the management teams get ISO certification?
Dec. 14th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Take a look at The Lavendar Hill Mob or even better, The Ladykillers, both of them archetypal "criminal plot goes wrong in darkly humorous ways" films. And with Sir Alec Guinness, pre-title. Both of them were re-made recently, with well-deserved lack-of-success.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )