(4) – Action Hero

Meme – Action Heroes

Action Heroes drag chaotic projects forward through tenacious force of will and pragmatic ingenuity.

When projects become messy, chaotic and complex, Action Heroes make sure what needs to be done gets done.   They don’t just watch a project progress.  They drag it forward through tenacious force of will and pragmatic ingenuity. 

This is a no nonsense leadership role. Think Alexander the Great, Patton, and Indiana Jones.  While everyone else debates how to untie the Gordian Knot (and whose budget will pay for the work), Action Heroes take the bold stroke and move ahead.  

Action Heroes share many of the same goals as traditional Project Managers, however, they approach their work with radically different philosophies and skills.  Project Managers traditionally seeks to minimize uncertainty and constrain change.  They apply strong organizational skills and leverage a detailed view of tasks on Control as a strategy, they are most effective when they can lock down requirements, simplify, and narrow.

Action Heroes see this strategy is insufficient to lead chaotic initiatives in dynamic environments.   Not particularly enamored of theoretical abstractions or project plans, Action Heroes  are smart, impatient, cross enterprise leaders, who identify issues, solve problems, fill gaps, and force collaboration. 

Action Heroes deal head on with the issues of complex, changing, multi-party collaborations.      

  • Identify The Broken Bits – Innovation’s greatest risk lie in the gaps, interactions, and disputes that no one has on their plan.  Results oriented, thick skinned, and insistent, they identify and take on challenges that others avoid and ignore. 
  • Intelligently Fix Problems - Collaborating with the Business Innovation Architect, they leverage the project’s big picture view as a problem solving roadmap.  They make sure that the solutions are consistent with the big vision and not local expediency.
  • Demand Collaborative Action – Collaboration in a high stakes dynamic world doesn’t just happen. Each vendor, business stakeholder, and project team has their own agenda and conflicting demands.  Someone needs to cajole, coordinate, and generally kick butt to bring the pieces together day after day.
  • Keep Things Moving – Action Heroes don’t demand a pre-established plan to act.   They do the needful and move on to the next challenge.  It’s the Action Heroes job to make sure the team doesn’t become too focused on internal debates and assigning blame.

This is a critical role, and absolutely essential for agile creative change.  However, that does not mean that Project Managers are not needed.  The organization of Project Managers is needed to provide a structured framework for accomplishing daily work.   While very different in personality and inclination, these two roles should work closely together within an effective team.  


Make sure someone is there to cut through the garbage and make things happen.  

Good Reads: 

Brainstorming Questions

  • Is there someone empowered to make sure that things don’t fall through the gaps during project execution?
  • Is there someone empowered to demand collaborative action and solutions?
  • Is there someone empowered to veto local, expedient solutions that don’t serve the project vision?
  • Is the Action Hero role staffed with a person with a passion for action?
  • Does the Action Hero have a functioning relationship with the Project Managers?
  • Is the Action Hero focused on the final business goal of the initiative?

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