I may be a "Crazy Fool" but I consider the A-Team to be agile!

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
by
My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

About this Blog

RSS

Recent Posts

Do your performance evaluation and recognition systems support cross-functional teamwork?

Don't be like a squirrel hiding nuts with project lessons!

I may be a "Crazy Fool" but I consider the A-Team to be agile!

Understanding the mismatched is another benefit of long-lived, stable teams

Horror movie lessons for managing project issues



When teaching agile classes, I'm occasionally asked if I could provide an example of an agile team from cinema or television. While the first Avengers movie does a good job of illustrating Bruce Tuckman's stages of team development (especially storming!), they are far from being agile.

The example I most frequently provide is that quintessential 1980's TV show, The A-Team. If your only exposure to The A-Team was the horrible 2010 movie starring Liam Neeson, you owe it to yourself to watch a few episodes of the original series. Keep in mind, this was the 80's so the show does glorify violence, isn't very politically correct and shows many tropes from that era, but it is still worth seeing!

Here are a few of the reasons for this:

  • The team is self-managing. True, they have been disavowed by their government and are being hunted by military police for a crime they didn't commit, but with each episode where they help a new client they figure out their way of working without being mired in bureaucracy or seeking guidance from outside the team.
  • Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith is the leader of the team, but acts as a servant-leader. While he leads planning efforts for their missions, he does this in an inclusive, collaborative manner and will defer to his other team members during the execution of their missions.
  • Plans are created, and Hannibal loves it when a plan comes together, but they are also willing to throw the plan away when it is no longer realistic.
  • They exploit the diversity of their team rather than being constrained by it. Bosco "B.A." Baracus might call H. M. "Howling Mad" Murdock a "crazy fool", but he respects Murdock's ability to fly almost any type of aircraft. Each team member brings a different, but complementary skill set to their missions. In this regard, they are a "whole team". Each is highly skilled at what they do which could have resulted in ego clashes, but they always put the team ahead of themselves.
  • They are comfortable with complex, uncertain situations. Every episode challenges them with a unique mission where their resources are constrained but they still manage to put together creative gadgets and weapons with common household items to help them succeed.
  • There is a high degree of psychological (if not physical!) safety within the team. They operate with true radical candor - while they care deeply about each other, they don't pull any punches when providing constructive feedback. They are also very supportive when a fellow team member takes a risk - they will always have that person's back!
  • They are working towards a shared, strategic vision. While most episodes focused on their helping clients through difficult situations, the team continued to work towards their overarching goal of clearing their names.

Finally, they are long-lived and stable, and as I wrote in my article from last week, this helps to overcome many of misinterpretations which can occur when we first work with someone. This is best illustrated in the following quote from "B.A." Baracus:

B.A. Baracus: You learn to love him, Mama. But it takes a long time. (Referring to Hannibal)
Amy: That's the same thing he said about you.

 

 

Posted on: November 03, 2019 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (10)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Dear Kiron
I read this article carefully but did not watch the series
I can't draw lessons from your description
Anyway, obtained by sharing

Have you ever seen video, one of the themes of an online conference hosted by ProjectManagement.com?

https://www.projectmanagement.com/videos/557751/PMXPO-2019--The-Surprising-Links-between-Agile-and-Jazz

There is nothing crazy about this idea, it's a perfect valid analogy.
Usually special troops are agile teams. They carry out missions with a small number of elements, are prepared to change, are always self-managed, regardless of the rank of each member, prepared to lose any team member and continue to function, their communication is transparent and the team has perfect knowledge of the details of mission and all the functions performed by each element of the team. I think it's harder to find better examples. You're not the only one thinking that, in this case I'm crazy too. Good post.

Nice tie-in, Kiron :)

Doesn't Hannibal literally say this in the opening montage? "I love it when a plan comes together"

Here's a gif .... enjoy the nostalgia
http://gph.is/2dUteLx

Thanks Andrew - Yes, Hannibal's famous tag-line is one of my inspirations for managing projects!

Luis -

I haven't seen that PMI conference video but would encourage you to watch an episode or two of the A-Team to better appreciate my rationale.

Kiron

Great blog entry, Kiron. And at the same time sad that I can relate to watching the A Team, it means that I have reached quite an age.

In their user stories an assumption was made. No one will die, and indeed no one did despite the several shoot-outs and car crashes ;-)

Very good points Kiron and your analogy is crazy great :-)

Thank you for sharing this analogy Kiron! For me being part of a self-managed team I can certainly concur and truly relate on your point #1.

On a different note, unsure if some of the community here may have similar memories of those times fighting for the best spot with other siblings to catch some glimpse of tv whilst forced to do homework at the same time just on the other corner of the living room! Those days when reruns’ just not an option, on/off and stations all in 1 dial!! Gosh wait, I am how old again?

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

"If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead."

- Johnny Carson

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors