Why Villains Are Lousy at Project Management

The Halloween musings of GAI Project Management Director Dan DePra, PE, BCEE explore how questionable motives and methods undermine villains’ wicked initiatives. 

Why Villains Are Lousy at Project Management

I love Halloween—carving pumpkins, cool air, leaves changing—but the costumes have always been my favorite part. It’s funny: as a kid, I’d always end up dressing as the hero, never the villain. Looking back, I think I now know why: Project management has always been in my blood, and villains are lousy project managers.

Think of all the great hero vs. villain stories. They all seem to have one thing in common: There comes a point when the villain is bound to triumph, yet the hero always seems to prevail! Why? I believe it’s because a few fundamental flaws undermine even the smartest villains’ project management skills.


Villains Are Insufferable Monologuers
Over and over, we see our nearly victorious villain wasting precious time explaining—in excruciating detail—how great they are and how they will be victorious. This inevitably provides the hero with time to turn the tables.

So why does this make villains lousy PMs? Monologuing is a symptom of deeper flaws of the villain: they are uncontrollably egocentric, narcissistic, self-important, inflexible, and arrogant.

Since villains are convinced that they know more than their team, this makes them terrible listeners. They are so inflexibly focused on themselves that they can’t hear—let alone recognize—when they are wrong and if their project needs a correction.

PM HEROES effectively monitor and manage communications by actively listening to their teams and stakeholders. They admit when they are wrong, nimbly adjust course as needed, and ultimately deliver their successful project.


Villains Have Dubious Motivations
Villains truly believe that their twisted motivations are just and righteous. And at the first hint of the villain’s possible failure, the minions scatter and abandon ship as they have no ownership of the project or accountability connected to its success.

Why? Unfortunately, villains are often fueled by greed or power or revenge. A villain motivated by personal glory leads their henchmen by brute force, and will rarely see their projects succeed.

PM HEROES are motivated by what is best for the client, the project, and the team—not by what benefits them personally. The heroes’ actions and decisions on the project exemplify this leadership, they share accountability and success, and they learn from their rare failures.


Villains Don’t Have a ‘Plan B’
A classically villainous plot appears well-crafted and ambitious, but suffers from being over-complicated, with no backup plan. In the mind of our megalomaniacal villain, Plan A will ALWAYS work, so why on earth would they need a Plan B?

Whether its underestimating our hero or forgetting to lock the back door on the Death Star, our villain relies so heavily on their own genius that they can’t help but violate a fundamental PM best practice: effectively identifying and managing risks.

PM HEROES work with their team to plan and identify project risks and create a Plan B, C, and D to mitigate those risks. So, when things don’t quite go as planned, our hero and their team are prepared to implement the backup plan and save the day!

Sound PM Fundamentals Are the Key to Success

Here at GAI, we are committed to safely delivering high-quality projects that exceed our clients’ expectations on time and on budget. Our GAI Project Management Center of Excellence works to instill sound principles and best practices in our Project Managers and delivery teams, all in the interest of building invincible PM HEROES.

And whether we’re talking about Dr. No, Darth Vader, The Red Skull, Lord Voldemort, Lex Luthor, Loki, or The Joker, true villains and their evil intentions will never win the day when faced with a hero armed with project management best practices!

Read Dan’s previous Project Management Halloween post:

Dan DePraContact Director of Project Management Dan DePra, PE, BCEE at 412.399.5586 with questions or for additional information about GAI’s Project Management Center of Excellence. Dan has diverse and extensive experience managing large civil and environmental projects, directly managing PMs and project teams, and leading companywide initiatives to improve project delivery and empower project managers.

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