Angry Birds BigIf you haven’t already discovered the most clever and addictive mobile game, Angry Birds, I suggest checking it out. The movie really tells the story best, but if you don’t have the time to watch it, it’s about launching birds at pigs. It’s not only a physics-lovers dream; there are also some valuable project management lessons to be learned from the game.

Plan Carefully

As each new Angry Birds screen is presented, it’s helpful to take a few minutes to study the layout of the screen. You should understand how the pigs are protected and if there are any rocks, explosives or other items that you can use to your advantage. If you start launching birds randomly without any real strategy, you might get lucky and hit some pigs, but its more likely that you’ll waste lots of time and get frustrated.

Similarly, in projects, the most critical stage of the project is the beginning, when planning and discovery are done. Teams that try to fast-track or even skip this initiation stage to save time will quickly lose all of that time (and more!) when they hit a roadblock that could have been prevented had the proper effort been spent in discovery.

Be Patient and Open-Minded

Oftentimes I will find myself stuck in a single strategy, firing birds in the exact same spots as I did the round before, stubbornly convinced that it’s the only way to crush all the pigs. Each time I fail the round, I start over and go through the same moves, and fail again. It’s only when I step back and take another look at the screen, and think about taking a different approach, that I am finally able to smash all of the pigs.

Sometimes it’s a matter of sleeping on it. The same screen that I might struggle with one night I will return to defeat the next morning after I’ve had some time to rest (while dreaming about Angry Birds of course…).

Similarly, in your projects, there’s more than one valid approach to achieving milestones. Don’t get stuck on one single process or technique if it’s not working for you. Be open-minded and try something different. Step back and take another look at situation before getting too frustrated.

Use your Resources Effectively

Some birds burst into 3 smaller birds when tapped, some drop bombs, some speed up, some change course, and some explode. Make sure to take advantage of the special ‘talents’ of each bird, and experiment with when and where to leverage those talents.

With your project team, be aware of each person’s special skills and talents. They might come in handy when you least expect it. And on a day-to-day basis, try to make sure that your team members are using their time effectively. Do you really need ALL of those people in the meeting? Maybe someone’s time would be better spent researching a new idea, etc.

Who ever knew that such valuable lessons could be learned from a game about birds and pigs?! Now, if only PMI would grant PDUs for the time we spend playing…

What Project Managers Can Learn from Angry Birds was last modified: November 29th, 2010 by Dina Garfinkel