I’m kind of addicted to fail videos. Few things amuse me more than watching people fall down, it seems. In fact, I’ve logged so many hours of fails that I’ve started getting a bit academic about it all. I now find myself analyzing and categorizing and evaluating each clip… and – of course – tying it all back to project management somehow.

As I see it, there are three main types of fail videos:

1. Accidents
Accidents will happen: they’re unpredictable and unavoidable. You can’t really plan for them, but you can be prepared. For example, if you’re cycling at high speed and there’s a possibility of debris on the road, maybe wear a helmet:


I have watched so many car crash videos that I now just assume that someone is going to do something stupid and plow into me. This has made me a more defensive driver and helped me to anticipate potentially bad situations on the road. Like the guy behind Ol’ Flipper in the video above – he was totally ready.

As project managers, we also need to expect the unexpected and protect ourselves as best we can. Depending on the situation, this might mean schedule buffers, contingency budget…or wearing a helmet. You never know.

2. Dumb/Drunk
This category covers all sorts of bad ideas originating from some level of impaired judgement. (Note that children also fit into this category – they do all kinds of dumb stuff.) These are situations where no one really thought through what might go wrong:

Guy lighting off firework in his pants

Now if you’re reading this, you’re probably not in the dumb category. I won’t rule out that some of you could be drinking on the job, but let’s pretend that’s not the case either. So we’re good right? Not so fast.

The problem is that bad ideas are often pushed upon us by clients or other stakeholders. If this happens to you, please don’t just “make the best of it.” Run away! Don’t do it! And if that’s simply not an option, at least say something. Make your professional opinion very clear: explain why it’s a terrible idea and provide alternative solutions. If no one listens, I suggest writing out your concerns, framing it, and mounting it over your desk. Then stand clear and start filming.

Seriously, though – put that stuff into a risk register. It’s less fun, but serves the same purpose.

3. Epic Almosts
I have a bit of a philosophical problem with calling this category of clips “fails.” Yeah – people are still landing on their faces, but it’s because they were attempting something kinda cool:


You have to be pretty talented to try stuff like this in the first place. You have to know what is possible and what the risks are. You have to have some semblance of a plan. And then…you go for it. Sure, you might fail, but it’ll be a good fail. It’s less about the spectacularly bad landing and more about the double backflip leading up to it.

In project management, we do everything we can to avoid this sort of thing. Steering clear of risk is actually part of our job description. We are primed to say no to pretty much anything that might mess up our Gantt charts. And to be fair, a lot of the time that’s a perfectly appropriate response. But what if…

What if we flip the coin and look at the reward side of the equation? What if instead of just saying no, we saw the possibilities and took on the challenge? We could make amazing stuff happen.

For me, this is the fun part of project management, where it’s no longer just about dollars and hours and status reports. Rather, it’s the joy of getting really creative and pulling off something not quite impossible. It might not be as visible as the visual design, but it’s every bit as much a work of art.

And even if no one else even realizes what just happened, you know what you did. And it was effin’ amazing.



Carson has been doing the digital project management thing for over a decade now, and still loves every minute. After hours, Carson listens to music no one else likes, plays hockey poorly, and co-runs the DPM Edmonton Meetup.

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