My formative years were the 1980's which were the heyday for slasher film series such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. With Halloween rapidly approaching I felt it might be timely to draw three parallels between the villains of horror movies and dealing with project problems.
Never say "It won't happen to me!"
A common method of identifying which characters in a horror film are likely to be eliminated early is to look for the most arrogant or overly optimistic ones. One of the more humorous examples of this is Samuel L. Jackson's character in Deep Blue Sea who gets eaten by a shark right after he has made a wonderful, passionate speech expressing his certainty in being able to lead the survivors to safety.
Project managers and their team members should feel bullish that they can successfully deliver a project, but this confidence should come as a result of effective risk management rather than blind optimism.
Don't assume it's dead
In nearly every horror movie, just when the hero or heroine believes they have successfully eliminated the monster, it finds a way to come back to life. The first Halloween movie had one of the most unexpected comeback scenes. Whereas you knew that the villains in other slasher flicks (e.g. Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees) were supernatural entities and hence normal human limitations wouldn't apply, in the original Halloween movie Michael Myers appeared to be a run-of-the-mill psychopathic human being. It was only at the very end of the film after Dr. Loomis has shot Michael a few times at point blank range and he's fallen from the second story of a house and managed to get away that you finally realize he's going to come back.
While it can be very satisfying to resolve a tricky project issue, we need to remain vigilant to the possibility that it could recur. If it had been previous identified as a risk, we now have quantitative data regarding its impact which we could use to be better prepared in the future.
Never say "I will be right back!"
If there is one thing a character should never do in a slasher flick, it is to head off on their own. Just as carnivores in the wild prefer to hunt prey who have got separated from their herd, movie villains delight in dispatching foolhardy wanderers. While it can be tempting to try to tackle a problem on our own so that we are feted as heroes, for resolving really challenging ones, there is strength in numbers.
One, two, project issues haunt you
Three, four, you can't ignore
Five, Six, there's no quick fix
Seven, Eight, don't hesitate
Nine, Ten, they will come again!