The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Web Planet

“The power that’s holding the TARDIS has taken your pen!” – but a great project manager isn’t made on a stationery fetish alone. Has the Animus of Vortis got what it takes?

animus

Bad hair day

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

The Animus has an admirably simple and measurable target – to engulf all of Vortis through aggressive business expansion. You get an inkling of her growth strategy when she describes herself as a power, absorbing territory, riches, energy, culture and, later, intelligent minds. Vrestin tells Ian that when her Carcinome encircles the whole planet it will be “too late” and this is a clear sign of a well-defined project endpoint.

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

It’s no small undertaking. The Doctor guesses that her web has been growing for between a hundred and two hundred years. And in order to do that, the Animus needs slave gangs constantly heaping vegetation into the acid streams to provide her with raw material. Her main workforce is her mind-controlled Zarbi, and this is later bolstered by captured Menoptera, subdued with the golden wishbones that amplify her psychic power. The Zarbi are plentiful and easily led, while the Menoptera are more skilled but need careful handling. In this way she creates a classic hierarchical organisational structure. And as the clip above shows, the Zarbi are creatures capable of, if not actually breaking the fourth wall, then at least headbutting it.

3. CONTINGENCY

sticky

The Doctor’s ring was powerless against the Animus’s sticky extrusion

I’m appalled to say that the Animus has no risk mitigation protocols in place at all. She’s aware of rebel Menoptera forces massing in space but can’t get an accurate fix on their numbers or position, and so makes no tactical preparations against an invasion. She suffers from over-reliance on her own capabilities and refuses to delegate responsibility. Her powers are impressive enough – she’s strong enough to attract new moons to Vortis, drag down and restrain the TARDIS, fling its doors open and make the console spin around. It’s almost unimaginable. More to the point, she makes Barbara Wright sob, which to all right-thinking readers of this blog will be the worst offence of all. But note how languidly the Zarbi apprehend the Doctor and Ian at the outset. It’s a poor manager who rests on her laurels and fails to take immediate action against a potential project collapse.

The first thing the Menoptera do on meeting Barbara is have a poke at her hair. Well it IS magnificent

The first thing the Menoptera do on meeting Barbara is have a poke at her hair. Well it IS magnificent

4. MANAGING THE TEAM

Regular contact with your team is essential to maintain a well-motivated workforce who’ll keep your project running smoothly. But the Animus lurks in the centre of her web so doggedly that Prapilius says no-one has ever even seen her shape. A manager this distant risks undermining the resilience of her team by failing to be available at potential crisis points. Note too, that having tasked the Doctor with a basic project milestone she then makes it impossible for him to complete it by refusing to suspend the interfering power source that’s blocking his equipment. Her intra-competency rapport is TERRIBLE.

Another indication of her restrictive management style is the importance she places in secrets, demanding to know the secret of the TARDIS’s armour before she will tell the Doctor the secret of the venom grubs’ weaponry and so on. And when secrecy gets a stranglehold on an organisation the flow of information within the operational infrastructure becomes blocked to a degree that no-one can achieve a maximised output efficiency.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Once I get Google Maps reinstalled on here we can upgrade it to iOS6, child!

You should switch back from Apple maps to Google , Doctor!

We’ve established the Animus’s lack of interest in the day-to-day metrics of her project. The impressive alarm system that lights up all the webbing in her headquarters is only further evidence of over-focus on her own security architecture. We get our first look at how she adapts to change when the Doctor’s Astral Map becomes available. It’s an amazing piece of kit which revolutionises the reporting capabilities available to her and she’s right to seize the opportunity as excitedly as she does.

But this is where her lack of hands-on team-building skills prove her undoing; her interpersonal inexperience means the Doctor is able to run rings around her by restricting the information flow and even feigning productivity while actually doing nothing. “Let’s look busy!” he even says to Vicki at one point. It’s a poor manager indeed who lets this sort of attitude pass unnoticed on her team. Her rage upon eventually discovering he’d completed the project segment long before reporting in is all too late – from this point on her defeat is inevitable.

DEBRIEF

  • Goal specificity was adequate if ambitious
  • Project planning was woolly, relying on personal abilities and a bottom-heavy workforce
  • Risk management strategy was unforgivably overlooked
  • An over-distant management style contributed to lack of focus among the project team
  • Basing ultimate project success on a key piece of equipment that only one team member could operate was a fatal flaw
Project FAIL

Project FAIL

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