Star Wars Scrum: Rebel Agility vs. Empire Command and Control


In the Star Wars saga, the Empire is clearly a traditional waterfall, top-down, command-and-control based organization. Its characteristic corporate bureaucracy is dedicated to positional authority, power, prestige and predictable outcomes. Its culture is focused on its own importance and reaffirms this through undertaking massive projects. Their goal is to create the Ultimate Weapon so that they can conquer the universe through a single, destructive blow.

This grandiose, self-important type of organization exhibits the classic corporate waterfall blinders that do not tolerate or acknowledge failure. This creates an inability for the Empire to learn from its failures, and will thus continue to repeat them. Bummer for them, but good for us because it ensures a never-ending backlog of movies.

On the other side of the spectrum, consider the agility of the Rebel Resistance who continue to out-perform and out-maneuver the Empire by using small, nimble teams in an iterative pattern. They exploit systematic weaknesses which are revealed through conversations with trusted advisors. The Rebels leveraged people and interactions, to rapidly inspect and adapt, seizing the high ground before their adversary.

Movie-goers see this on the screen easily, but in real life, this is not always the case. The Empire’s insistence on doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome has entertained generations of Star Wars fans. This same mindset is nothing short of maddening in the real world. Remember the scene in when Darth Vader asked for a status report and the Death Star was not operational and behind schedule? How did that turnout? For those of us who have been traditional PMs in large companies, we understand what it is like to be on the opposite side of the table from Darth Vader when this question is asked.

There is a saying in the Agile community that you have to build your own light saber. The first step in this journey is to break free of a traditional mindset, and reject the dark side in order to follow a more enlightened path. Learn from the evil Empire’s example of building Ultimate Weapons which aim to take over the universe. Perhaps as we all construct our own light sabers, we will forge a new Agile order ushering in a more civilized age.

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