Project Management: Mission Impossible

An article by Peter Taylor, author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’

What should the theme tune be for all project managers?

I recently ran a survey to find out the answer to this critical question and all of you PMs out there in project management world climbed aboard the bandwagon and voted in your thousands.

At the end of stage one of the LinkedIn discussions I had 187 suggested tunes and by the end of the full campaign over 200 tunes. No one can argue that the project management musical taste was not a full and varied one for sure!

There was even a purpose built (or rather penned) offering in the shortlist from ‘Mr IPM Day’ himself, Frank Saladis – The Project Manager Blues. Beyond that we had suggestions ranging from classical to heavy metal and through punk and new wave and many more, such as ‘Bob the Builder’ and ‘The Muppets’ theme tunes.

Spoiler Alert

This is the part where, whilst there are no strobing effects or scenes of an adult nature, you may just get upset and so I have to be cautious and provide a warning or alert to what follows. Therefore, if you have not enjoyed listening to the ‘PMs theme tune top 50 countdown’ (with DJ Lazy PM) then you may wish to stop reading and head off to  where, by selecting the ‘My Blogs’ tab and then the ‘PMs theme tune’ tab, you can enjoy the full audio experience and excitement of finding out the top song.

If you have listened already, or just don’t care, then read on…

Number 1

The winner was, only just – it was a long battle between the top two songs throughout the competition – Mission Impossible by Lalo Schifrin. Congratulations to that old classic (I know there have been updates with Limp Bizkit and half of U2 but the original is the best).

You know when this won out I thought ‘hey that is a pretty negative song … is that what all of my fellow PMs think? We are just trying to do something impossible?’

If you analyse the songs in the long list (and the shortlist) and broadly categorise them as:

  • Positive/Optimistic
  • Neutral/That is just life
  • Negative/Depressive

Then you get a pretty even mix across the three categories.

But if you do the same across the final top ten songs then I would say you get an 80% score in the Positive/Optimistic camp.




Percentage of vote


Mission Impossible – Lalo Schifrin/U2



Under Pressure – Queen



Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python



I will survive – Gloria Gaynor



We are the champions – Queen



Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin



I Did It My Way – Frank Sinatra/Sid Vicious.



We could be heroes (just for one day) – David Bowie



I Promised You a Miracle – Simple Minds



Eye of the Tiger (theme from Rocky) – Survivor



Mission Impossible

Mission: Impossible was an American television series which chronicled the missions of a team of secret American government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). The leader of the team was Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves, except in the first season, during which the leader was Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill.

A hallmark of the series shows Phelps receiving his instructions on a tape that then self destructs, accompanied by the iconic theme music composed by Lalo Schifrin. I am pretty sure these days Health & Safety would not allow that but as a youngster it seemed a pretty exciting moment – instructions received and destroyed to protect the team.

The series aired on the CBS network from September 1966 to March 1973. It returned to television, as a revival, for two seasons on ABC, from 1988 to 1990 and later inspired a popular trio of films starring Tom Cruise in the 1990s and 2000s.

Project Impossible?

Whilst the title suggests an almost certain failure the IMF team never did fail (at least I can’t remember them failing at all).

They planned meticulously and completed a risk assessment along with contingency actions before embarking on their extreme missions.

The plans always utilised the full range of skills in the team (the regular agent line-up during the first season consisted of Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), a top fashion model and actress; Barnard “Barney” Collier (Greg Morris), a mechanical and electronics genius and owner of Collier Electronics; William “Willy” Armitage (Peter Lupus), a world record-holding weight lifter; Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), a noted actor, makeup artist, escape artist, magician and “master of disguise” plus of course the leader of the team Mr Phelps, Jim Phelps (Peter Graves).

They used the latest and greatest equipment (OK so maybe they weren’t working on a restricted budget) and throughout change management was a reality as the mission variables often depended on some smart out of the box thinking on the move.

And they delivered.

On time.

(Each week).

So at the end of the day I salute all of you who voted for the Mission Impossible theme tune, a pretty damn good choice I would say.

It all started with me singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ and ended up with a new official and democratically selected tune to help each and every one of us in our day by day project activities.

This article will self-destruct in ten seconds time – Good Luck!

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