STAR WARS - Business Lessons From the Galactic Empire

Running a business is pretty tough, especially if your business goal is intergalactic domination. Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs know a lot of what it takes to run a multi-billion dollar company, but I bet that even they would have trouble overseeing the Deathstar. Forbes recently put together a list of management mistakes we can all learn from Star Wars.

Mistake I: Building an organization around particular people, rather than institutions  

There is a constant we see starting with "A New Hope" and running through to the end of "Return of the Jedi" of the Emperor consolidating more and more power into his own hands and that of his right-hand man, Darth Vader. In "A New Hope," the Galactic Senate is disbanded in favor of regional governors hand-selected by the Emperor. By the time "Return of the Jedi" rolls around, the Emperor’s only advisor is Darth Vader, and his distrust in his organization is so complete that his only plan for succession is a desperate attempt to poach Luke Skywalker from the Rebel Alliance and get him to join his organization. Anytime your future plans depend on getting a rising star from a rival organization to join your team, you know that you have some serious institutional issues.

As the events of the movie make clear, the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader pretty much eliminated any opportunity for succession. A galaxy-wide organization was defeated simply by taking out two key individuals. Despite his decades of scheming, Palpatine’s organization barely lasted a day after he was gone.

The Emperor and Darth Vader don't have to be the only people that have the power to shoot colorful lightning bolts out of their hands! 

Mistake II: Depriving people of the chance to have a stake in the organization

The Emperor disbanded the Galactic Senate, removing the idea of any democratic stake in the government. He wiped out all references to the Force, so there was no longer any guiding ideology. His sole idea for maintaining control of the Empire was building the Death Star, on the theory that, in the words of Grand Moff Tarkin, “Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.” Similarly, while in the first "Star Wars" film, there was a scene showing officers in the Imperial Navy discussing strategy, by "Return of the Jedi," it was clear that no feedback was being solicited anymore. The Emperor or Vader gave orders and that was it. No further discussion.

Storm Troopers should be given the chance to work their way up the ranks. How long do you think they will be happy wearing that uncomfortable armor and masks?

Mistake III: Having no tolerance for failure 

In an early part of the "Empire Strikes Back," the Empire attempted to wipe out the Rebel Alliance once and for all in the Battle of Hoth. However, because Admiral Ozzel took the Imperial Fleet out of lightspeed too close to the Hoth system, the Rebel Alliance was able to detect the Imperial approach and quickly begin its defense. Enraged by this error, Darth Vader used the Force to choke Admiral Ozzel to death. Captain Piett, Ozzel’s second-in-command, was then promoted to Admiral and given command of the Imperial Fleet.

This swift, decisive punishment of failure is a huge error of management. First of all, mistakes are inevitable — especially in times where quick decisions are needed to be made on incomplete information. Rather than simply kill Admiral Ozzel, Vader should have attempted to direct him to a course of action that corrected his error. Instead, he threw the Imperial Fleet into organizational disarray as countless numbers of officers were suddenly thrust into new roles and responsibilities without the opportunity to learn them. This organizational chaos was undoubtedly key to the Rebels ability to escape in mass numbers, even as they flew perilously close to the Imperial Fleet.

Darth needs to learn that while it may be fun to kill his lackeys, it may be hard to find replacements to pick up the slack!

Mistake IV: Focusing all of the organization’s efforts into a single goal and failing to consider alternatives 
When it came to the success of the Galactic Empire, the Emperor had one single idea that he was absolutely obsessed with: building the Death Star. The completion of the Death Star, with its ability to destroy entire planets, was the singleminded obsession of the Emperor. At no point do we ever see any alternatives broached. No scenes between Darth Vader and the Emperor debating the wisdom of building a second Death Star so soon after the first one was destroyed. Nobody suggests to the Emperor that it might be wiser to develop more flexible ways for the Empire to destroy planets, such as combining the firepower of several Star Destroyers at once.

The only other goal we ever see the Emperor pursue, apart from the destruction of the Rebels, is to get Luke Skywalker to turn to the Dark Side and succeed Darth Vader and possibly the Emperor himself. 

Mistake V: Failing to learn from mistakes 

The Galactic Empire devoted years, an enormous amount of money, and an enormous amount of manpower to building the Death Star. After it was built, the Death Star only successfully completed one mission before it was destroyed by the Rebels. And the Empire’s response? Build a bigger, newer Death Star to serve as a target for the Rebel Alliance. In the second case, the Death Star wasn’t even completed before the Rebels managed to destroy it again.

Despite the failure of Force choking Admiral Ozzel to improve performance by the Imperial Fleet, Vader Force choked Captain Needa after his failure to capture the Millennium Falcon shortly thereafter.

Both the Emperor and Vader were obsessed with turning Skywalker to the Dark Side of the Force, even after Skywalker made it clear that he’d rather die than abandon the Rebel Alliance or join the Dark Side

Creating a corporate culture based on fear and always focusing on one single evil goal will never lead to success in the big picture. Do these tips make sense to you?


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