Managing Projects for Supervillains

As every blockbuster action movie has taught us, supervillains have the best infrastructure projects. From rockets, to underground lairs, to city-destroying robots, these incredibly ambitious projects can be a thrill to manage. Here are some important tips for managing your first supervillain project.

First, we need to acknowledge the ethical concern: you probably shouldn’t be working for a supervillain. A certified project manager will have had to sign the PMI Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct, which implicitly discourages a PM from working on doomsday devices, etc. Generally, if one of the project goals is to hold the UN ransom, give the project some extra consideration before agreeing to manage it.

However, since an organization’s senior management may not have fully disclosed their strategic goals, the project team might not know if the key stakeholder is just Elon Musk, or if it’s someone more nefarious. Like Homer Simpson’s brief employment with Hank Scorpio, perhaps you just don’t know whom you’re working for, so let’s move on.

Supervillain projects differ from regular projects. Here are the key areas where you may have to adjust your management techniques:

Project Goals and QA Testing:

The project’s success will be measured differently than the more common metrics like ROI and benefit/cost ratios. Usually, supervillain projects have a specific, non-financial goal: did we effectively blow up Alderaan? Did the shark-operated lasers deploy correctly? Because of these action-oriented results, it’s worth building in a more rigorous QA testing period into the schedule than you might normally plan.

Project Schedule and Budget:

Supervillain projects tend towards the complex, and usually have tight, inflexible project deadlines. The tradeoff for this is the budget might fall into the 100 billion dollar category. Often there will be less pushback getting change orders approved. It is a “spare no expense” mentality, will little to no opposition to resource crashing. Bring as many people onto the project team as possible, and prepare them to work lengthy amounts of overtime.

Human Resource Management:

The various members of your project team risk being shot by heroes when the final battle on the construction site (laboratory, missile launch pad) ensues. As part of your risk management strategy, assume a slowdown will occur in these late phases of the projects. Training team members in multiple areas of the project can help recover some of the lost time as the project team members are picked off one by one.

Project Lifecycle, Procurements and Closures:

These types of projects aspire to have the same project life cycle as a typical project: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Closing. However, the latter two phases frequently get disrupted by British spies or Nicholas Cage.  Have a contingency plan in case you are unable to close the project as planned. Know what to do with any unused nuclear materials, explosives or other procurements. Be prepared to update the organizational process assets, even if the organization itself has been vaporized.

On a final note, as your supervillain project collapses in a fiery, explosive, hail of bullets, you yourself may have to manage communications with the adversary (who should have been included in your initial list of stakeholders, but again, sometimes you just don’t know). While it’s tempting to yell, “Don’t shoot! I’m just the project manager”… remember, don’t sell yourself short – you’re the one who made it all come together!

Happy Halloween.


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.