Hollywood and Military know how to engage their organizations in the Disruption Economy


Didier Marlier

May 22, 2015

From Disruption to Engagement

We support leaders as they navigate through significant strategic and cultural changes.  We are united by our values of Expertise, Courage and Generosity. Our network operates across the world.

Mass Engagement Process


Cultural Performance Improvement


Innovative Leadership Development


Team & Individual Coaching

Recently, I saw been delivered a fascinating session explaining to business executives, how professional troops were operating, under extreme conditions, when disruption and unexpected changes were the rules of the game.

The speaker, Michael Newman, explained that under such conditions, the old “Command & Control” was totally inefficient and illusory, given the fact that people in operations needed to react faster than their commanders, as they were confronted to the reality of  disruption on the terrain, when their “bosses” were having to manage a much wider picture at Headquarters level.

The notion of “empowerment” which we all know, took a large part of the speaker’s demonstration: he explained that, in order to fully empower and trust the soldiers on the field, officers needed to work with the notion of “Mission Command”.

Mission Command requires:

  • Clarity on the Purpose of the mission and objective to be reached (also called “Schwerpunkt”, Point of Main Effort)
  • Clear Authorities and Boundaries
  • Accountability
  • Leadership Development

Back in 2010, in a previous post, I commented on Daniel Pink’s explanations about the counter intuitive research done at M.I.T. on motivation.

Daniel Pink follows pretty much the same rules as explained by the speaker I was listening to, on stage:

  • Autonomy: which happens when the objective is clearly defined, the boundaries are set, the authority unconditionally given and, in return accountability is accepted and taken
  • Mastery: which is needed to create trust and empowerment
  • Purpose: So that we are intellectually and emotionally aligned

Pink uses this model as a motivational tool, but what struck me is that, elite troops use it in an organizational and leadership context. Herebelow is the specific part of the speech where Pink talks about his model (5’)

Gerd Leonhard sends each week a useful summary of what struck him in terms of news and articles. “What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work” published in the New-York Times is not a new idea. Fortune or Time magazine, 15 years ago had published something around the same idea. But the theme remains excellent: The author starts to describe the anthill impression he had when entering an abandoned office space where the scene of a movie was to be shot. Anyone not accustomed with this kind of disjoint energy spending could have wondered if those people knew what they were doing and, above all where was the person in charge of coordinating and shouting orders. Adam Davidson shares his surprise: ” Why was this process so smooth? The team had never worked together before, and the scenes they were shooting that day required many different complex tasks to happen in harmony: lighting, makeup, hair, costumes, sets, props, acting. And yet there was no transition time; everybody worked together seamlessly, instantly”.

Davidson calls this the “Hollywood Model” and forecasts that “More of us will see our working lives structured around short-­term, project-­based teams rather than long-­term, open­-ended jobs”. In my humble opinion, his article then “derails” a little bit but there is still a lot we can learn from Professional militaries as well as Hollywood movie making crews

  • Crew and soldiers have a shared higher purpose: Be the best in what they do. They live with a paradox: They have to be individual star performers and perfectly able to blend into a team (Purpose and Autonomy)
  • They have a clear objective: to ensure the success of their project or mission (Purpose)
  • They cannot become silo driven as success will clearly depend on how well their brilliance and competence will integrate with other team members speciality, edge and talent (Purpose and Mastery)
  • They, by definition, know that life time employment is not guaranteed and they have to remain “on top of their game”. Both Hollywood and professional Troops only take the fittest (Mastery and Autonomy)
  • They need to be granted clear authority in what they do and know of the boundaries or limits of it (Autonomy)
  • Being a “lone wolf” (such as the star explosives expert in the award winning movie “Hurt Locker”) no matter how brave, brilliant they are, may endanger the whole project, the success of the Mission and life of their peers. Living through the paradoxes of aspiring to be the best and remaining humble, being a sharp specialist and a team player, being excellent and focused whilst looking for diversity and respecting it are essential to shine under such conditions.


  1. Gabriela Jardim


    Thanks for sharing this perspective.
    Once more, you were able to tackle a great managerial/leadership issue. Really appreciated the comparison between Hollywood and military!

    This kind of logic reinforces the leaders’ role. If they reinforce daily through their actions and encourage his/her followers to do the same, it’s possible to change the “status quo” of silos thinking inside an organization. Without the leaders support and example, it’s really hard to transform daily habits of a company.

    Anyhow, it’s inspiring to see that there is a methodological approach to apply it and also successful examples where it was applied.

    Thanks and have a nice week!!

    • Didier Marlier

      Heartfelt thanks Gaby,
      Coming from you, it is a real compliment. The idea of the movie crew has been around for a while. I don’t agree and certainly do not feel as enthusiastic than the journalist in the way he sees it, but I like very much the metaphor. And indeed, if the leaders do not walk the talk, the movie or the project will be heading South.
      Thank you for reading and commenting!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mobile: +41 79 435 1660

Skype: didiermarlier

5 Route du Village

1884 Villars-sur-Ollon

CH - Switzerland

“Engaging Leadership” has been written for leaders who are about to engage their organisations in change."

11 + 10 =