What secret agents can teach us about Project Teams

I’m a fan of “secret/special agent” TV programmes.

For years. my wife and I have bought the American TV series “NCIS” on DVD, and when winter draws in, we catch up on what the NCIS team are up to.

More recently, I’ve been watching the British tv series “Spooks“, on DVD, and have just finished the first four series.

Both are enjoyable programmes. NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is about a team of special agents led by the seemingly passive aggressive Gibbs. In his team (initially) are Caitlin, and Anthony.

Spooks is about the MI5 and deals with the trials and tribulations of being an agent of Her Majesty’s Government. There are 3 main characters – Tom Quinn, the Head of the Counter Terrorist unit in MI5, along with Zoey, and Danny, two junior case operators.

While watching these, one thing became really obvious to me. A good project team does not rely on its stars. In NCIS they started with three main characters. And at the end of the second series, one of these 3 gets killed. Does that mean the end of the show? No – they hired someone else to become a main (totally different) character.

And Spooks goes even further, In the second episode, one of the “regular” characters gets killed. Then, at the end of the 2nd series, Quinn gets killed off. Bam! The lead character. And then before the third series has finished, the other two get killed off as well. And the series just kept going. New characters were introduced – each bringing something different to the mix.

A good team is like this. It shouldn’t rely on its stars. The people making up the team each add value, but should never be irreplaceable.

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