7 Simple-Yet-Genius Management Lessons from Money Heist

Note — The article is only useful when you’ve watched the series.

Money Heist Season 4 is releasing on Netflix on April 3. Notwithstanding the current strife that’s gripping the world — it’s something to look forward to as we grapple to stay home and save ourselves. While there’s the fast-paced dynamic progression of events at a magnitude and complexity that make our jaws drop and other heists look rather silly, Money Heist, more importantly, stands out for the “process” — the unique way in which things are handled by “The Professor”. Many of the points outlined here are a great example of how The Professor’s work ethic helps one get things done when one is in WFH/quarantine.

1) Vision

There’s many a heist where we support the robbers and the general causes they stand for (The Oceans’ series or a Robinhood).. but the explanation of “The message is as important than the money” is much more nuanced in “La Casa De Papel” rather than the stereotyped “emotional flashback” or “anti-establishment thinking”.

There are two pillars to the heist’s vision — one is INTRINSIC INSPIRATION — “for the artistic perfection of it” — this ensures his team generally enjoys working towards excellence in their task (something we struggle to do at work). He also effectively employs the “Liquidity Injunctions” (or “Quantitative Easing”) to convince his team (and many viewers) — that the banks were all also robbers of public money. Suddenly the team members are thinking “We’re doing something for the greater good, for the people” — this EXTRINSIC INSPIRATION that the greater picture is always in perspective whenever they’re tired and out of focus (bound to happen when they’re in for the long haul).

These two very different sources of inspiration just make the vision tight and complete.

2) Hiring

Any businessman knows that — at the end of it all — the quality of the process boils down to the people who work on the project. The criteria used by “The Professor” for hiring are superbly emotionless — none of those “I could see the passion in this guy” or “he’s someone who is comfortable to work with” mistakes we normally do.

All the hires needed to pass “there’s nothing to lose in life” test which is the only thing that could ensure they put the “mission ahead of the man” — this while sounding so cruelly simple — is actually sheer genius, when you come to think of the fact that it’s his first big heist.

Also, the roles are super-clearly defined. While it’s intuitive to see that Oslo and Helsinki are hired for their obedience and physicality, Moscow for his mining and Rio for this tech-monitoring wizardry — the others aren’t as clear at first sight. Nairobi is there to drive “Operations” — the minting process. Tokyo to handle hostages, etc. But wait for the nuances — Berlin is what you’d call “The Project Manager” — he has no defined task because all the members have prior heist experience and the ability to act without direction. But he’s the boss’ proxy on the field to ensure that things go to plan — to do “what it takes” to solve high-risk disputes.

As a businessman, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing people you hired work together symphonically towards one goal smoothly — that’s what the Professor achieved through simple (by no means easy) hiring. Half the heist was won even before it started.


3) Research, and More Research 

The knowledge of all police and bank protocols — the negotiation strategies, the delaying tactics (Plan Valencia), hostage proof checks, tracking, etc — helps the Professor treat the heist like a game of chess. The opponents are not unknown entities — but people with clear roles. So he knows what to expect and how to respond.

4) Meticulous Planning — “Decision Trees”

This is an extension of the “chess treatment” argument — since the extensive research helps “The Professor” envision all possible outcomes — it allows him to create decision trees — a set of small plans and (exhaustive) outcomes. And then he just trains his team on how to achieve each sub-plan.

Most managers don’t have a Plan B in case what they are achieving is bound to fail. There’s an insight from “The Professor” — do extensive market research to understand all possible problems and prepare detailed responses.

5) The Case Method — “It Works Because it’s worked before”

(For those who don’t know it) The best management institutes in the world teach you via the case method. Management isn’t a science — so a gospel of theory doesn’t work. Historical examples of how people respond to new situations or decisions are how management is generally taught. This is evident when he explains why he thinks “Plan Cameroon” or “Plan Chernobyl” will work.


6) Breaking down Inter-Personal Dynamics — “Give everybody what they need”

Controlling 50+ hostages with 6 members isn’t going to be easy since the hostages (though weaponless) can work something up through united efforts. The Professor comes with what I think is the most brilliant little plan — when he offers each hostage the option to join the heist or leave.

This kills three birds in one stone — It disunites the people. He gets more operational capacity to mint, from the hostages who want their share of the money. It gives a clear filter as to who all amongst the (now-weakened) hostages are “problems” — makes them easier to monitor and deal with.

He could only do it because he thought through how EACH and EVERY hostage in the situation is likely to react to — and he had the optimal response to each reaction. Stunningly devious, yet schoolboy simple.

7) A Calm Style Of Working

The heist isn’t a quick-race — it’s a marathon — a long haul (just like business is) — which means only calm and sustained effort is going to get you through as opposed to brief moments of inspiration. Only when everyone is super-comfortable doing what they are doing — can they achieve the best results they are capable of. The Professor is hell-bent on ensuring that all hostages and members are calm. An easy thing to say, but he could bring that calmness only through clear planning, assessment, and principles which I’ve tried to de-construct in this blog.

The writer — Ashok Kumar K is a businessman (seller of T-Shirts) and an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

You can checkout Aaramkhor's exclusive Money Heist merchandise capturing the essence of Season 1 to Season 3 here.

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