Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Galactic management #2: Ewok edition

Second in an occasional series. Part 1 is here.


1. Be prepared. The Ewoks, being tiny stone-age teddy bears, were able to defeat an entire legion of Imperial troops partly through a cunning collection of traps, which considering their scale and complexity, must have already been in place prior to the rebel landing party (perhaps the Ewoks were already considering a strike against the Empire). Without the giant tree trunks to crush the Empire's AT-ST walkers, the Ewoks would have been significantly disadvantaged.

2. In fluid and poorly-understood situations, it pays to diversify. The Ewoks, who still called blasters "lightning sticks" (if I remember the cartoon series correctly), could not possibly have comprehended which of their weapons would make an impact on the Imperial troops. We see them deploy a great many different tools with varying degrees of success -- the suspended logs and the rolling bed of logs worked well against the AT-STs, and one might have predicted such. But the catapults and the rocks-dropped-from-parawings were pretty useless. Similarly, against the ground troops the legion of archers proved pretty hopeless but simply throwing rocks from a high vantage point and the bolasses worked well. If the Ewoks had concentrated all of their resources in one basket, they may well have picked an ineffective tactic. Archers and catapults on the face of it may have seemed like a sensible strategy but overcommitting to them would have been fatal.

3. Big gambles sometimes pay off -- but sometimes they don't. So have a contingency plan! The Ewoks joined forces with a tiny band of rebels to fight an evil Empire that had so far done little to alter their way of life, to secure their freedom. For them, it worked. The Emperor built a massive space station to lure the rebels out and destroy them once and for all, and he failed. Both groups, though, appeared not to have any sort of backup plan -- the Emperor was caught short when the rebels finally did nail the shield generator, and the Ewoks would surely have been mercilessly wiped out by the Empire had they failed. We should have seen the Ewoks evacuating children and elderly to a more secure location, and the Emperor should have had a private shuttle -- or even a private Star Destroyer, considering the scale of DS2! -- waiting for him.

4. Relationships matter. If the Empire had landed and greeted the Ewoks with gifts and knowledge instead of speeder bikes and stormtroopers, the rebels would not have found such a fertile hotbed of dissent right in the middle of a vital piece of Empire territory. Similarly, we see both C-3PO and Leia form relationships with the Ewoks, one through an intellectual and emotional appeal through storytelling to the horrors of Empire and the latter an individual bond formed through joint peril and success. So consider the relationships you have as a manager, and as a client, and as a supplier, and make sure that those relationships are productive and pleasing both ways. "Developing rapport" isn't sufficient -- you need to build a shared structure built on delivery and success that both parties are committed to. Amazon and Fog Creek know this, with their strong focus on consumer satisfaction. So does Toyota, with its lean production techniques that rely on good-quality supplier relationships.

5. Er, I'm starting to struggle here. Don't expend disproportionate resources on diversions? We see one Ewok steal a speeder bike, and the result is that the entire squad of speeder troops chases him, leaving the bunker almost entirely undefended. Similarly, I've seen companies spend extraordinary amounts of effort chasing contracts or features that simply won't deliver value equal to the effort put in.

6. Okay, here's a bonus one. If you have extra-thick blast doors and there's a rebel fleet in space, and potentially some insurgents on the ground, don't leave your doors so unlocked a single bowcaster shot can blast them open. Otherwise someone might fill your office/server/event with explosives and blow it to pieces. So attention to detail and adherence to well-defined procedures matters if you don't want to be caught off-guard by something really stupid and easily preventable.

(Part 1 - Palpatine on management)

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