Staying a Step Ahead of Trouble to Achieve the Unbelievable

Okay, over the holidays I admit I did some Netflix binging. What caught my attention was “The Money Heist”, a series released in 2017 that ran for three years. It’s made in Spain, but the English dubbing is so good I could barely notice the difference. The plot is immaterial but it’s about a select group of thieves that band together to rob the Spanish Mint. Not only is every detail of the robbery and escape plotted out but the group under the direction of “The Professor” has role played almost every scenario one could think of that could go wrong and thwart a successful escape. Whenever the authorities make a move, or they have an issue with their hostages, the thieves enact the appropriate risk management strategy under a code name that has been well rehearsed. Not only that but their communications’ strategy is designed to position them as the good guys. Right about now you are wondering what this has to do with business.

“Get to the point Olson!”

All right; first to one’s surprise this band of thieves is a very cohesive unit despite the diversity within (skill sets, gender, ethnicity). What makes them a strong team? Well certainly millions of dollars in euros apiece is a terrific motivator, however only if they think the plan to steal the money will work. Not only do they think it will work, they think it’s brilliant. Brilliant enough to spend months sequestered in a classroom at a remote mansion going over every detail and practicing their process. During this time they bond, identifying each other only by their stage names which happen to match the names of various cities (Rio, Berlin, Helsinki, Denver, etc.). Why is this of any value you ask? Well bonding is good, but this kind of friendly labeling exists in team dressing rooms in sports everywhere. A subliminal linking of everyone to the bigger picture through a fun nomenclature.

Throughout the show’s many twists and turns in season one, every time a potential game ending obstacle appears, they talk it through with the Professor who reminds them of how they prepared for that event and calls their next move like any leader removed from the fray and with a clear mind would be capable of doing. Then they execute, brilliantly stymieing their opposition yet again.

The more I watched I started to draw parallels to many situations we have seen with our clients over the years, from nose dives in the economy to bad weather, a disruptive competitor, a loss of a key executive, product production issues, labour shortages, you name it. If they’ve seen it before they may have a plan, but often they are fighting back from behind. What a great idea for a retreat at the start of the decade, a “What If” session? This isn’t just about risk mitigation; it would be a great team building exercise. Divide the staff in two, one group devises the obstacle, the other must come up with the solution with a panel of senior managers grading both groups.

Of course, this exercise only holds great benefit if it is tied into a big harry audacious organizational goal for 2020 and everyone believes in the plan to achieve it (which would be developed during the first half of the retreat if it doesn’t already exist).

So back to “The Money Heist”….do they escape with a billion euros? Sorry, I can’t ruin it for any other bingers out there!😊

Mark Olson
Managing Partner

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