The Monty Python Project Manager: And Now for Something Completely Different

William Craig Forgrave

Beginning on BBC television with a half-hour comedy show (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), the Monty Python Comedy Team moved to cinema, producing four films between 1971 and 1983. Whether by accident or intention, the team created four movies that encapsulate the project management process and the keys to success in our new world of creatively managing change.

Each movie offers example “how-to” moments; I will provide just a few of the lessons you can glean from watching these four films.

When viewed consecutively, these films illustrate the project life cycle through inspired scenes and images of glorious lunacy and silly business. Each film was a project, with the Pythons assuming roles of writers, performers, directors, and producers, all under tight timelines and budgets. Sound familiar? Although each movie demonstrates all four phases of a project, their subject matter, stories, and metaphors align with the generic four phases of a project life cycle as listed on page 39 of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition.

I now offer a quick guide to being a Monty Python project manager, for everyone who’s ever felt their project falling dangerously into “flying circus” territory. First, a quick road map of the Python movies and the generic project manager life cycle:

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

- Edith Wharton