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Putting the Drama in Project Management, Part 2

By Cristofer Munson

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In Part One, I discussed the importance of having a concept of the final project outcome, and also a concept of how project execution can influence that final outcome. This time, I’d like to cover what I consider the secret to a great show (and a great project).


Part Two: Why it does matter who is cast as batman

I studied under a director who had quite a few Broadway credits to his name. When I asked about the secret to creating a great show, his answer was clear: casting. “Ninety-percent of your show’s success is based upon who you cast.” Having the right person in the right role goes a long way to creating a play or film that audiences love. Look no further than the Batman franchise to see how casting can contribute to the success or failure of a production. 

The term casting typically refers to the long (and sometimes agonizing) process of auditions, interviews, callbacks, and readings. In addition to casting the right actors, the director must fill other key roles including set, lighting, and costume designers. These roles also play a critical part in creating and delivering a production. With the play’s concept and approach firmly in mind, the director works hard to understand the strengths of each potential team member and considers who will be best in each role and who will work best with the rest of the team. 

Project managers are charged with a similar task and use all available resources to identify the best talent for their projects. This means contacting past team members, leveraging professional relationships, and working with recruiters. A mindful project manager not only thinks about putting the most talented person into each individual role, but also considers how the different team members will work together. I have known many directors who will forego casting a certain actor (thought to have had the “best” audition) because they sense that actor will be a burden to the team or a barrier to achieving their best work together. I consider the same team dynamics when I put together a team of consultants. 

A mindful project manager not only thinks about putting the most talented person into each individual role, but also considers how the different team members will work together.

In a perfect world, a project manager will have an endless supply of talented people to cast in the project. Needless to say, no world is perfect and, more often than not, a project manager has a team assigned to or assembled for them. The same is often true in the theater world and, fortunately, a good theater director has many tools in their tool bag to manage the situation. Theater is a multi-disciplinary art form and requires a diverse set of talents to bring everything together. A director must be keenly aware of the activities and responsibilities of each of those roles. They must also understand the considerations and constraints that impact the individuals in those roles. With this perspective, the director is able to communicate and work within a context that is meaningful to each individual. It is the director’s responsibility to clearly communicate what is needed from each of these different team members and ensure they understand how their work fits into the overall production.  

Just like a theater director, a great project manager engages with each team member in a manner that is relevant to them and supports them in doing their best work. The considerations and constraints of the software development team, for example, are different than those of the marketing team. The project manager is the point of synthesis between these different disciplines and perspectives. He or she either knows or learns the critical considerations and constraints of each role and works with all the team members to bring together a cohesive project. While he or she may not have selected specific team members, the project manager can increase the likelihood of reaching a successful outcome by communicating and working with team members in a manner that is relevant to their particular perspective.


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Putting the Drama in Project Management, Part 3

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