“It never rains, but it pours.” This may be how you feel when things go wrong. Just like in Gone in 60 Seconds, things do go wrong. And things go wrong not just for Nicholas Cage but also in any business. What is important is how you overcome the obstacles and move forward.
Plot Summary: Gone with 60 Seconds
If you haven’t watched Gone in 60 seconds, here’s a plot to be read in 60 seconds: Kip Raines (Giovanni Ribisi) makes a deal with a gangster and agrees to steal cars for him. Unfortunately for him, the car heist goes wrong, the police discover their plan, and the entire operation falls apart. Memphis Rains (Nicholas Cage), Kip’s brother, comes to the rescue and creates a plan where they must steal the 50 cars in one night and deliver them by the original due date to avoid being killed.
Parallels between the movie and your business
Let’s start by drawing a relatively straightforward parallel–the movie’s plot can be equivalent to any software project where you’re attempting something new that you or the team haven’t delivered before. You undertake the project and try different ways to get to the outcome. Whatever you try doesn’t work; you have to scramble and go back to your tried and trusted method to ensure you deliver by your project’s due date. But you ask questions the second time you go about business and come to the reasons behind failure:
- Lack of planning
- Underestimating the effort and risks associated with doing something new
If that’s how it panned out–please don’t panic. It has happened to my team and me before.
It happens with anyone who attempts something they haven’t done before to try and provide a better solution or work on something new. That’s what leads to shifts and even disruptions in any industry. Sometimes, that new method works. And other times, it doesn’t, and you revert to what you know and yet be able to deliver the result you need quickly.
I don’t see these moments as failures but learning experiences; things do not improve if you keep doing the same thing repeatedly; you need to experiment and try new things to try and improve a process. Every existing process or method can be followed indefinitely, but just because it’s been set doesn’t make it the best way to do something. I believe those moments are needed to allow for experimentation and learning to know where the limits are within you. Your team’s capabilities and the technologies you’re using can either reinforce that you’re process is still solid or it identifies places for improvement.
Back to the movie now…
Let’s approach the car heist as a project. What does every project need?
Internally, projects are always referenced by some code name. In the movie, each car is given a code name which helps obfuscate what the end targets are.
We have the English gangster Raymond Calitri who has placed the order for the stolen cars.
We have a team of members with specialized skills.
We have expectations set with the customer on delivery and payment.
The plot had all the elements of the project set out and yet the first heist went wrong. So, we have to ask what went wrong with the first project.
Well, in the movie, we see the first car heist, which is stealing a Porsche from a dealership. the heist quickly escalates to a police chase which leads directly back to the crew’s warehouse. Here, the entire plan falls apart. That specific heist was not executed as best as it could have. Too many risks were taken, and it was more than the project could bare. No wonder the police could impound all of the stolen cars.
The plot thickens…
The move doesn’t stop there. Raymond kidnaps Kip and contacts Memphis, a renowned but reformed car thief. He is also Kip’s brother. Memphis meets Raymond and sees that his brother is about to be killed and agrees to steal all of the cars and deliver them by the existing due date, which just happens to be in 72 hours.
Time for the Rescue Project that intends to deliver
All the parameters of this project are the same except for the team. Memphis, being more experienced in this field of work, has an existing team he works with. All his team members are specialists.
So, a team is put together with specialists with more experience–they have delivered in the past and can deliver again. (Cue: In the movie, we see a quick team-building montage and then move on to the heists.)
And ‘deliver’ they do
The second heist attempt with the new team is a success. This leads us to a question–why does this project succeed while the first could not?
It’s not because there were fewer risks taken in the second heist. There were plenty of risks taken during that one night, there’s even a huge police chase with the final car, the 1967 Ford Mustang GT500E, Eleanor. The team could execute under more stress and time pressure than the first team.
The difference, I think, lies in the approach the new team took. The second plan was to be executed on one night, a large A software development sprint is typically used within the agile methodology and is a predefined set of work for a..., if you may. This minimized their exposure to the police, their greatest external threat. However, this increased the pressure as there was no other opportunity to make this a success–all they had was one night. Plus, it was a movie, and the good guys always win. Luckily, the team could adapt to changes in their plan. They adapted to the challenges faced when stealing cars and were able to deliver.
Business Lessons from Gone in 60 Seconds
From the plot described thus far, we can see where the parallels can be drawn. However, there are at least three that we will discuss today.
1. You need to assemble the right team to execute a project
Businesses fail because of several reasons: from lack of investment to the inability to innovate. But what almost all businesses can do regardless to determine long-term success is hire the right people and build a strong core team.
Memphis does just that in the movie. He cannot do everything on his own. So, he builds a team, albeit comprised of his old mates. The team has his mentor, Otto Halliwell, and a crew that comprises Donny Astricky (now a driving instructor); Sphinx (a mute mortician); Sara “Sway” Wayland (a mechanic and bartender); and not to forget, Kip and his crew also volunteered to help.
Great businesses are led by leaders who can surround themselves with the right team members. Memphis was that leader and hence he could taste success with the second car heist. Once you have the right people, you must ensure they all value working toward a common goal and are goal-oriented. Memphis did that by rallying them to the cause of stealing 50 cars in 72 hours.
A strong team of the right people will have individuals with complementary skills so that, as a unit, the team can accomplish tasks that a single person would never be able to. In case you have more questions than answers in regard to building a solid team, here’s how you do it (this is a non-exhaustive list):
- Set clear expectations for the get-go
- Build respect from individuals on the team
- Encourage communication among members
- Lead by example
- Build trust
- Incentivize good work
2. You need to have a solid plan to execute your outcome
All businesses require planning. As someone succinctly put it, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
A business needs to have objectives and a pre-thought-of course of action to achieve these objectives. That, in essence, is what planning is.
In the movie, Memphis realizes that he needs to take action if he doesn’t want his brother to be killed by the gangster. Then he aims to save his brother by delivering all the stolen cars within a given timeframe. He assembles the team, gives each car a code name to aid the heist, and pivots when needed.
A business needs to be able to do just that. Without planning, a business cannot possibly hope to survive in a highly competitive setting. Talk about being unable to allocate resources, going over budget, or simply moping around like headless chickens!
Here’s a checklist of how you can build a solid plan to execute your outcome:
- Recognize a need for action
- Outline the objectives
- Plan tasks that are required to meet those objectives
- Allocate resources
- Create a timeline
- Determine the method of assessment
- Have a contingency plan
3. You need to adapt your plan if things go wrong
Planning also has to do with being able to manage contingencies. Who in their right mind wants their Plan A to fail? The answer is NOBODY.
Everyone hopes and prays that things go as they want them to go with Plan A. But that’s not always the case. Kip’s first heist failed, and Memphis had to step in with a Plan B to save the day. A business needs to be prepared for contingencies–unforeseen events knock your plans off track.
In our line of business, ‘pivot’ is a word we use often. How’ll you pivot if you lose a big client? What will you do if the project has gone three months past the expected deadline or projected budget?
Having plans–not just Plan A, but Plan B and even Plan C, will ensure that the team can spring into action and get things back on track should the unexpected happen.
Here’s what you need to consider when pivoting:
- Ensure the new goal aligns with your business vision
- Ensure pivoting will provide you with growth opportunities
- Keep stakeholders in the feedback loop
- Understand the target market and their needs
- Incorporate recent technological changes
For many, Gone in 60 Seconds might be a masterclass in planning a heist.
I am here to draw parallels between the movie and business, so here are the lessons we can draw from Gone in 60 seconds:
- You need to assemble the right team to execute a project
- You need to have a solid plan to execute your outcome
- You need to adapt your plan if things go wrong