Although ants can do many things, they need a leader.
Ant-Man is the latest addition of the Marvel Universe. He follows the example set by Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man, like its predecessors is full of insights on project management.
Ant-Man is a great movie that highlights the common lessons project managers learn on the job, from creative thinking to team management to stressful deadlines.
Here are seven lessons from Ant-Man on project management. Warning: This article contains spoilers.
1. Respect diversity and celebrate the talents of your team.
The movie is filled with examples of team members who have special abilities, whether they are ex-cons or ants. They all use their talents to help Scott Lang and Hank Pym. Hank Pym was the first Ant-Man to discover the power of different types of ants. Fire ants are called “architects” by Hank because they can use their bodies to support each other and build bridges and rafts. They assist Scott, an ant-sized Scott, to cross the ground and navigate the water main to Futures Lab.
Scott’s team includes fire ants as well as other talented members. Crazy ants can conduct electricity, which is useful for Scott’s backup research. Carpenter ants can fly and transport heavy objects (by ant standards). Then there are the human beings: Luis, who is known for his knock-out punch and ability to work in prison as well as in crime, is a handy man. Time and again, Kurt and Dave’s hacking and getaway driving experience are used.
Scott and Hank wouldn’t be able to complete any of their projects if they didn’t have these specialized skills. They know how to make the most of their team members’ talents.
Project managers must have the same skillset. They may not be able to identify the strengths of their team members and try to solve a problem using the wrong tool. Project managers will struggle if they give the wrong assignment to someone without the right talent, just as Scott would struggle to fry Cross’s computers with only fire ants.
2. Transparency will inspire your team.
Hank tells Scott, when they first discuss how to take out Cross that Hank’s daughter Hope is crucial to the mission. Hank is keeping a secret that almost causes Hope to lose her heart.
Hank lied to Hope throughout her life about her mother’s passing. He also didn’t tell Hope why she couldn’t wear an Ant-Man suit. Hope suspects her father’s double-dealing and doesn’t get why he won’t let her perform the sting. Hope is angry, hurt and unwilling to give up on the plans.
Hope refuses to accept Hank’s plans, until he finally tells her that her mother died and disappeared into a quantum world while disarming the bomb. Hope and Hank can come to an agreement once the truth is revealed. The plan to take down Cross can then be implemented.
Nobody likes to be lied to or manipulated. You are the most in-touch with higher-ups as a project manager. Transparency and trust can be built by sharing as much information as possible about the project, even the bad news, with your team.
This advice is also applicable to stakeholders. There is nothing worse than feeling that a project is succeeding only to find out that it is not. It is important to share details with stakeholders in order to get the necessary guidance on how to proceed with a project and to make your stakeholders feel more confident in your team for future projects.
3. Do not be afraid to stray from the script.
Scott, despite not being a project manager, shows the quick-thinking skills of one when he breaks into Pym’s safes. He doesn’t expect to find a fingerprint scanner in the safe outside, or an analogue camera inside.