Work Wiser #8: Let’s Play – Darth Vader and the Dark Side of Project Management

Join Darth Vader to learn about the dark side of project management.

Do you want to know how to boost your productivity? One way is to play more. Playing relieves stress, improves brain function, stimulates the mind and boosts creativity. That’s according to the National Institute for Play.

Over the holidays, my family and I rewatched the entire Star Wars series. Once you have the mindset of a project manager you notice projects everywhere. So I couldn’t help but be impressed by the excellent project management skills deployed by the evil Empire in Star Wars. This is notably exemplified by Sith Lord Darth Vader.

The big hairy audacious project in Episode Four, A New Hope is, of course, the Death Star.

Lesson One: conflict resolution is an important soft skill in project management. Darth Vader shows us how to effectively resolve conflicts using his signature force choke.

Lesson Two: when it comes to project communications, it is important to obtain accurate data for your status reports. Darth Vader again demonstrates the use of persuasive techniques to get competitive information.

By now, you must have picked up that the Empire’s preferred leadership style is command and control. However, Darth Vader is not stuck with traditional waterfall methodology. He’s able to switch to agile methods when the situation calls for it. In episode five, The Empire Strikes back, Darth Vader uses a few iterations to progressively elaborate and improve the verbal contract with Cloud City administrator Lando Clarissian.

When it comes to important deliverables Darth Vader conducts pilot testing. To ensure that the crude carbon freezing facilities at Cloud City doesn’t kill Luke Skywalker, he first conducts a successful test on Han Solo.

The most notable achievement on Darth Vader’s resume is how he effectively realized benefits ahead of schedule for the Death Star 2 project. The project is behind schedule when he conducts a site inspection. Commander Jerjerrod initially reported a project status of green and on track. However, Darth Vader probes deeper to determine that the project is actually behind schedule. He leverages the authority of the project sponsor to get the project back on track.

As every project manager knows, the number one criteria for project success is an engaged sponsor. The Death Star Two project has a highly engaged executive sponsor, Emperor Palpatine. He uses leading edge methods such as the LEAN approach to ensure that benefits are realized even before construction is fully completed on the battle station. As such the main laser on Death Star Two is fully operational ahead of schedule.

As you can see Darth Vader demonstrates the effective application of project management best practices, including traditional, agile and lean approaches–most definitely a well-rounded highly recommended project Manager.

Disclaimer: Please note that these dark side project management practices are not endorsed by the Project Management Institute.