Project management relates to nearly everything we do, and from makeovers to match-making, no-one does projects like the heroines of our favourite chick flicks. In this blog post, we look at the project management successes and failures from arguably the best three ever made: Mean Girls, Clueless and Legally Blonde.
In Mean Girls, previously home-schooled Cady Heron starts high school, and sparks the interest of the most popular group of girls, run by queen bee Regina George. Inspired by her other friends – the project team of this example - Cady aims to infiltrate Regina’s clique and destroy her status.
The team break this goal down into smaller objectives, i.e. sabotaging Regina’s relationship, physique and friendships. However, Cady soon stops agreeing on and delegating tasks with the team, and becomes too self-involved to keep focus. She eventually becomes exactly like Regina, losing the support and trust of either group.
The breakdown of the project can also be attributed to a rushed and vague project brief. The team fail to assess the risks of the project and underestimate the tasks involved. They apply poorly thought-through solutions and get distracted from a goal that’s already plagued by self-interest, ultimately failing to achieve it.
Clueless follows Cher – a popular, rich teenage girl with a taste for match-making and “improving” the lives of others. She finds a “project” in transforming new girl Tai from scruffy and inarticulate to polished and popular.
Cher’s first project management mistake is appointing herself as a leader. Having no experience of dating but attempting to manage Tai’s dating life makes her an underqualified PM. She fails to establish Tai’s needs, and discourages her from dating someone suited to her in favour of someone who isn’t. Cher also fails to assess the risks of her project, and her misguided attempts to improve Tai and prove her selflessness result in Tai’s popularity overtaking hers, damaging Cher’s reputation.
Eventually she becomes aware of her own cluelessness, and learns to make use of the assets and resources around her, as well as identifying her own skills and talents and putting them towards better causes.
Legally Blonde centres on Elle Woods, a bubbly it-girl with a fashion degree. When her boyfriend leaves her, claiming she isn’t “serious” enough, she follows him to Harvard Law to prove him wrong.
She arrives as an outsider, complete with handbag-sized Chihuahua. She is poorly equipped, with no understanding of legal jargon, and a pen and paper instead of a laptop. Elle needs to adapt to be taken seriously, and begins to identify and acquire resources. She invests in better equipment, studies hard and earns a place helping out on a murder trial.
During the trial, her team struggles to gain any ground. Elle realises that she needs to work with the key stakeholder in the case, this being the defendant Brooke. She gains Brooke’s trust and takes the lead in the case, ultimately winning it. The project goal changes from a selfish attempt at getting her boyfriend back to Elle helping others and furthering her career.
Each of these chick-flicks teach lessons that every project manager can learn from. They emphasise leadership, empathy and teamwork when working with a project team and encourage taking advantage of relevant skills and resources. Adaptability is helpful, but in each the need to re-assess the projects’ tasks and goals could have been avoided by proper planning and goal-setting initially. Notably, none of the protagonists assess the risks involved in their projects, and are all underqualified to begin with. At ILX Group, we deliver best practice project management learning solutions. Make sure you’re qualified as a project manager before getting started too!