In 2002, Movie Maker magazine named Alfred Hitchcock as the most influential filmmaker of all time.
Hitch, as he was commonly known, was a master storyteller. One of his most famous quotes was
“To make a great film, you need three things – the script, the script, the script”
James Stewart’s invalided character from the movie Rear Window
The script or screenplay is the piece of original creative writing that lays out the cause-and-effect sequence of events that takes us on the journey from the beginning of the story to its meaningful resolution. It introduces characters that we see ourselves in, creates consistent story worlds that we lose ourselves in and provides a compelling reason to invest our time on the story ritual laid out before us.
Great scripts are extremely rare.
My field of work is the delivery of major construction projects. I see every project as a story – just like Hitch’s movies. In order to be successful, each project needs a high quality script; in the world of construction, it’s called a project plan.
Great project plans are extremely rare.
I am writing this blog article on a plane from Beijing to London. In China, I have been speaking about the commissioning of performance-critical buildings called data centres. Without these facilities, the modern world as we know it would simply not work.
A view of the aisles within a major data centre building
In order to get the delivery of these data centre facilities right, they have to be properly commissioned – that is work effectively and efficiently in accordance with the client’s requirements. In China, which is the world’s 2nd biggest data centre market, this is a big issue.
After having spoken to countless people during my 4-day stay in China, the problem is evident - they don’t have a clear script for the commissioning of their data centres. By this I mean that there is rarely a plan in place that tells the whole commissioning story from pre-design through to post-handover.
Instead, they often only think about commissioning as a series of manual activities that take place on site. As a consequence, when the switch is flicked to activate the data centre, people hold their breathe with a sense of dread.
Hitchcock was also known as the master of suspense – often showing the audience more than the lead character can see in order to create anticipation mingled with uncertainty. He was not known as the master of surprise – just introducing something that nobody was expecting.
With even the best made plans for a project, there is some sense of suspense – uncertainty about the outcome. In fact, this suspense is a key ingredient required to keep the project team focused on successful delivery.
What project teams do not need is surprises, especially surprises in project outcomes. When the journey of construction project delivery is made without a high quality script, surprises are inevitably – just as the Chinese are finding out with their data centre projects.