Darth Vader (Wikipedia photo)

The Sith Lord Darth Vader, of Star Wars fame, often gets a bad rap, particularly in what we all think of as his ‘dark years.’

From a certain perspective his mass murderbrutal oppression, and frequent deception to serve his own ends makes him seem like a pretty bad guy. But if you look past all that to his action, you will find a very capable and effective project manager.

In the name of finding silver linings in dark clouds, I’d like to present the top 10 reasons why Darth Vader was an amazing project manager.

Number 10: Vader prioritized brutally. Over the course of Vader’s pursuit of the Rebel Alliance, you see him set and pursue priorities according to their strategic value. When he knew the plans for the Death Star had been leaked, he focused on mitigating that risk. When Luke came on the scene, he shifted priorities to recruit him to the Dark Side! Vader paid close attention to the happenings of the galaxy, evaluated the impacts of any given issue, and went after the highest priorities…time after time. No emotional attachments, no personal agendas…just the right thing to do to preserve the Imperium, and see his project through to successful completion. In project management, if you can’t prioritize, you won’t get anything done, let alone anything done well.

Number 9: Vader made decisions based on objective data, not whims. Remember that Imperial officer who had to report to Vader that they had lost Han Solo in the asteroid field, and he choked him? That was some decisive action! Vader consistently evaluated the performance of his team, and made changes to fix problems when the team didn’t perform. Sure, there may have been some fear and terror, but put all that aside. The inclination to objectively evaluate the performance of your team and not accept substandard performance is an important one. Project teams needs to feel safe and supported, but they also need to know that the project goals need to get met, and if you aren’t delivering on your commitments, changes need to get made. Thank you, Vader, for making tough choices to accomplish your goals!

Death Star II (Via Wookiepedia)

Number 8: Vader made commitments, and worked hard to keep them. If you think of the Galactic Empire as something of a SCRUM project, the Emperor would have to be playing the Product Owner role. Of course, in SCRUM/Agile, the team makes commitments to achieve predefined goals over the course of any given sprint or iteration. Darth did this with the Emperor many times, and he worked REAL hard to make sure those commitments were met. I mean, how did he manage to get that second Death Star operational so quickly anyway? Hard work, that’s how. Vader understood the importance of commitments, and more importantly, the significance of fulfilling them. Trust in teams is built on commitments.

Number 7: Vader took time to re-charge, relax, and get some perspective. Projects and the achievement of project goals can often feel like super-high stakes. Everyone on the team is motivated to solve the problem, and get to done. Conflict is inevitable in that kind of environment, and a good project manager needs to get in there and confront those issues head-on. Of course, this can be exhausting, emotionally and intellectually. Vader understood this, and was careful to take time out of his busy project schedule to relax, meditate, and give himself room to gain some perspective about what was really important. Remember that awesome rehab egg thing he had in his quarters? Good project managers care, and they need to express that care, but they also need to maintain objectivity, which means they need to give themselves the time and space to regain perspective.

Lando Calrissian

Number 6: Vader managed risk and expectations…pre-emptively. Remember that time when Darth Vader went to Cloud City, bought off the management, then lured Han, Leia, and Chewbacca into a trap? Genius. The amount of planning and forethought that went in to that little exercise must have been epic. After some serious prioritizations, Vader perceived the highest risk to his Galaxy, and made a plan to mitigate the risk stat! Additionally, you saw him having conversations with team members all over the place making sure they understood clearly what his expectations were with regards to the achievement of goals. Good project managers think about their projects defensively, and act to protect them aggressively.

Number 5: Such a persuasive fellow. Of all Vader’s substantial capabilities, perhaps his most effective one was his ability to persuade people to do what he needed done. With the exception of his own kids (in his defense, have you ever tried to get your kids to do something?), he did a pretty great job of getting people to cooperate (whether through fear, obligation, or The Force!). The Imperium was so enormous, so full of complexities…it must have been a serious challenge to navigate that and convince people that his vision of the project was one that they could all get behind.

Viper Probe Droid (Via Wookiepedia)

Number 4: Vader picked a methodology and stuck with it…until it didn’t work. In keeping with the commitment to objectivity in performance, Vader picked his methodology of fear, manipulation, and aggression, and stuck with it, until it was clear that the methodology was not working anymore. Everyone knows that Vader betrayed his Emperor to save Luke from certain death upon Luke’s refusal to join the team in a certain role. Vader saw that his previous methods of fear and intimidation didn’t seem to work with Luke, or any of the rebels any longer. Boom! Change of tactics to get the job done.

Number 3: No problem is too big to tackle. Sure, Vader had an enormous skepticism that served him well in managing risk. All good project managers need that ability. But good project managers also have to be optimistic enough to push through tough challenges and look for solutions, however improbable their success. The point at which the Rebels had slipped off the imperial radar screen, and holed up on Hoth…Vader was feeling pretty lost at that point, you know? Where the devil had those pesky rebels gone off to? How the bantha poodoo was Vader going to find them in the enormity of the galaxy? What is that? Send out thousands of spy droids to random planets and see what turns up? Low probability of success, but still better than zero? Done! Vader’s optimism and confidence in his team’s ability to overcome all obstacles is an excellent lesson in persistence.

Number 2: It is never too late to do the right thing. Everyone is presented with choices that have questionable moral consequences. The right thing is almost always something to be wrestled with. One of the most profound moments in Vader’s career came when he took responsibility for all the morally wrong things he did, and did the right thing. He never thought it could atone, but he did the right thing anyway. Project managers will make thousands of choices in the course of a project…some of which may be of questionable moral fiber including the omissions of details, avoided conversations, hidden pieces of data all to paint a better picture of the project. Good project managers will take the time to reflect on their choices, and re-make the choices they don’t feel good about. The right thing is crucial to trust on a team, even if the right thing is a hard thing.

TIE fighters

Number 1: Vader was never afraid of getting his hands dirty. Every project will have boundaries drawn around the responsibilities of specific roles being played, and Vader knew his own role in the imperial project. But he never asked anyone to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself, and he made sure he had a clear understanding and appreciation for the hard things that his team had to execute on. This, I think, is what made Vader better than just good. No detail was overlooked. He didn’t micro-manage, necessarily. He got involved in the work of the project, and his team followed him because they knew he understood and was invested in the project’s success! Whether he was force-choking a non-performing admiral, or flying a tie-fighter, he contributed to the team’s success anyway he could.

Follow-up: Terrible Teacher and Mentor, Top 10 Reasons Yoda Was

Brandon Koeller is the CEO of FNX Studios, a Bellevue software product consulting firm. Brandon loves software, technology, and putting check marks in little boxes next to action items. He also loves Star Wars, which is way cooler than Star Trek.

Comments

  • http://www.pmhut.com PM Hut

    Hi Brandon,

    That’s a very interesting post. I’ve never thought of Darth Vader as a project manager, but hey, everyone deep down inside is actually a project manager (even a mother, a teacher, etc…)

    I like these analogies…

  • http://www.binfire.com Project Collaboration

    Funny article, I enjoyed it. Who knew Darth was a project manager? Although, I should have known, the first project manager I ever worked with, was a copy of him! Did Darth use any collaborative project management software to do all this?

    • James Troutman

      Like most PM’s hell bent on pain, intimidation, and inter-galactic domination he obviously used a custom blend of MS SharePoint.

  • http://www.rationalplan.com Lucian Ioan

     Nice! You really invested some time in writing this article…

  • Anonymous

    <3 <3 <3

  • Jmrybmc

    I used this same comparison in a project management class. My response was not quite taken the way I thought it would go. Still think that the best project manager is either Hanabal from the A Team or Vader.

  • http://twitter.com/AlanSBPerkins Alan Perkins

    My favorite line of all time seems appropriate here: Darth Vader says when he arrives at the construction site for the new Death Star: “You can dispense with the pleasantries Commander; I am here to put you back on schedule.”

    • Tenebris

      Nice that someone noticed that the Death Stars are not actually Darth Vader’s projects originally! He was also not in charge of the defence or use of either Death Star: which turned out to be a fatal weakness for the Empire.

      Incidentally, Vader was handed eight projects visible to the audience in the course of the films, not just two (or nine/three, if you count the second Death Star).

      * Find the missing plans (mixed success)
      * Find the rebel base (success, after taking over the project from Tarkin)
      * Convince his superiors about Obi-Wan Kenobi, then find and eliminate him (success)
      * Destroy the rebel fighters before they can harm the Death Star (successful until two powerful and previously unknown external factors became involved – Han and Luke)
      * Find and destroy the new rebel base at Hoth (success)
      * Successfully bait Luke to a personal meeting at Cloud City (success)
      * Bring Luke before the Emperor (success)
      * Help the Emperor to convert Luke to the dark side (abject failure, which becomes success after Darth Vader revises the goal of being on the same side as his son)

      Among his projects, he succeeded at most, failed at only a couple that were fully within his management — and other people who attempted them had already failed at every one of those projects.

      All the best
      Tenebris ( http://www.helium.com/items/312964-entitlement )

  • http://twitter.com/brucelevitan Bruce Levitan

    Much as I like your article and support many of the point you make, I’d have to disagree that he was a GOOD project manager:

    10) Prioritisation – he was not objective, the whole strategy he was following was ultimately flawed (dark side versus light side). So OK he was able to prioritise within that, but surely the first and most important goal of prioritisation is to choose the right thing to do?

    9) There is a mixed message here. Sure he was a decisive decision maker, but you can’t run a good team solely through power and fear (which is what he did). Ultimately they will try and escape from your project, not support it. Also, killing off project resources is not good management. If a member of the project team isn’t performing try reassigning them to a role where they will do better.

    8) I agree that trust is based on commitments: however Vader didn’t trust anyone (except perhaps the Emperor – but see (10). Vader was a very poor delegator.

    7) OK, I’ll give you this one!

    6) Actually he did not manage that risk very well, as Lando helped Luke & Han in the end. Vader, in a thorough risk assessment, should have recognised the earlier relationship between Lando & Han was in fact one of amity, not enmity, and planned accordingly (i.e. killed off Lando as soon as he had Luke in his clutches).

    5) Actually he was not persuasive at all. He got people to do stuff by a mixture of fear, power and manipulation. The one person he did actually try to persuade – Luke – was not swayed. people did what Vader wanted because they had to, not because they wanted to (i.e. they weren’t persuaded).

    4) This isn’t about methodology. Note that he didn’t “get the job done” in the sense that he succeeded in meeting his original objectives. Actually what he did was change sides, and thus change objectives. He didn’t change his methodology at all.

    3) I’ll give you this one (except for the last statement about confidence in his team… see (5) and (9).

    2) I’ll give you this one as well. (In fact I think Star Wars is really Vader’s story – he’s the only character who runs through the entire 6 films – and it’s basically a story of redemption).

    1) Agreed (though not the team following part).

    THANK YOU so much for writing this post. Even though I don’t agree with you I think you make several good, well argued points, and the basic premise is really cool!

    • Anonymous

      Remember that the Droids feature significantly throughout the entire series. In fact I believe that the entire thing is the story of the droids

      • Imymulla

        The droids are the storytellers. The story is the story of Vader.

      • Imymulla

        The droids are the storytellers. The story is the story of Vader.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Topperfalkon Topperfalkon

      @twitter-50685698:disqus I think you’ve overloooked some points on your criticisms, so I’ll respond on behalf of the author.

      10) It was never about Light vs Dark for Vader. His goal was to preserve the Imperium long enough to learn the secrets of Darth Plagueis to bring Padme back to life. Of course there’s many problems with that in itself, but I won’t go into that here. The fact is he was simply looking out for the Empire’s interests, and did so objectively

      9) The dynamics of that universe are significant. The majority of the galaxy is under Imperial control, so you can’t run from the Empire. There’s also abilities in the Force that would make the workforce loyal enough to not attempt escaping. Finally, as mentioned in a later point, his ‘team’ actually somewhat respected Vader, because he was a very hands-on ‘manager’ and comparatively lenient. Whilst killing off workers probably doesn’t help a great deal, it certainly motivates his successor to do a lot better (and he does).

      8) I think that’s a slight bit of character assassination there. He certainly didn’t trust anyone implicitly, but he DID trust them to do their jobs to the highest degree (which probably explains his severe punishment for failure).

      6) I believe Vader recognised that Lando’s staff were particularly loyal to him, and disposing of Lando would not have been to his advantage. Besides, he knew that, regardless, Lando’s priority would have been freeing Han, and had he succeeded in capturing Luke that wouldn’t have been as much of an issue. Bear in mind, Lando didn’t actually play a particularly significant part in the Rebel struggle. The ground mission on Endor could still have succeeded even if Leia and Chewbacca had been kept captive.

      5) Believe it or not, coercion is a persuasion tactic. There was also an incident in ESB where one of the Admiral’s question Vader’s choice of target, but give way to Vader’s (albeit force-attuned) wisdom. I can see where you’re coming from, but it’s not particularly relevant in his case.

      4)I’ll agree, on the basis that the author’s point here doesn’t make sense in context.

      And obviously the points I’ve missed are the ones where you agreed with the author, and therefore had nothing else to contribute.

      • Tenebris

        Per #6 –
        You mean, of course, that Lando didn’t actually play a particularly significant part in the Rebel struggle apart from saving the entire fleet from crashing into the Death Star’s Endor shields, which had not yet been disabled.

        • http://twitter.com/#!/Topperfalkon Topperfalkon

          They were nearer the shields, so could better detect that they were still up, I’m fairly sure that the entire fleet would never have plunged into the shield. The only major contribution he made (I think it was him) to that battle was ordering the fleet to close on the Star Destroyers so that the Death Star wouldn’t fire on them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21721390 Mike Ellis

      Wonderful additions to a great conversation starter. I will note that Lucas has said Star Wars is R2D2’s story, as he is a clear and defining hero in each film – fitting with the technological, good side and other messages underlying the series. It could very well be argued to be Vader’s story for many of the same reasons, however. Also, I disagree that Vader was a good project manager, although he was notably effective in the majority of the nine tasks that were mentioned by another commentator (I’ll quibble on some such as Hoth or defending DS1), but it’s a good way to approach the topic and I will reiterate that the original piece was well argued (albeit ultimately flawed) and quite interesting. I think Topperfalkon has some nice points below to temper some of yours but I still agree largely with the thrust of yours. I will also second you in that I appreciate the original article very much!

  • Anonymous

    dumb article

  • http://twitter.com/MiGaOh Michael G. O’Hair

    If the project was a Death Star, Darth Vader wasn’t an amazing project manager.
    The Sith Lord should have been fired after the first one was destroyed.

    • Zimriel

      The first Death Star was Tarkin’s project. Vader warned the team that this technological terror was insufficient against the Force. He was aware, first, that not all the Jedi had been found; but more importantly he needed to keep the military from thinking that it could do away with the Sith.

      And then in other movies you find out that the Emperor is also a Sith Lord; and that the Death Star had been in planning as of Episode Two, when there was no Vader.

      It is more likely that Vader was assigned to military command precisely because the military had proven itself arrogant with the first Death Star’s destruction.

  • http://www.opengatesw.net/products/Microsoft-Excel/PowerPane/index.htm Excel_Pro

    Excellent project manager?  Yes.  Excellent procurement leader?  Not so much.  Think of all the clumsy, poor-aim storm trooper clones he keeps ordering.  Should have found a new supplier that could train the troopers to shoot well.  But then the movie would have ended early…so perhaps better that he was so horrible at it!

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Topperfalkon Topperfalkon

      Actually, the majority of the troopers after ANH were naturally born volunteers. The majority of the clone troopers were on DS1 when it blew up, with the notable exception of the 501st. It’s also notable that the 501st were absent when Han, Luke, Leia, etc. were on board the Death Star as well.

    • eekee

      Never mind that Tarkin stated that there was a beacon placed aboard the Falcon. Never mind that the tactical utility of such a beacon was obvious, and that it would have been useless if Han & co hadn’t got away. Never mind Leia saying “They let us get away,” and she was a realist if anyone was in the films. (Heck, she makes Han look girly in the prison break!)

  • Projectmanager60

    Thank you! That made me giggle, and made me think. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I think I can learn something from Darth Vader. The only thing it seems he did not have is some useful task management freeware. I use Clarizen http://www.clarizen.com/ProjectSoftware/Features/TaskManagement.aspx and I find it really helps me be more organized and use my time, budget and resources effectively. I’m not particularly scary, so I need all the help I can get.

  • Charlie Jackson

    I think it’s hard to judge whether he was a good project leader, if measured by “project success”.

  • Christina Lannen

    He was a psychopath.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Topperfalkon Topperfalkon

      Not really, Vader’s downfall was classic Shakespearean.

  • Del Johnston

    I want to point out that the photo attached to #1 is a TIE/ln, while Vader flew a customized TIE/Advanced x1. You’re looking at either DS-61-2 or DS-61-3’s ship there.

    • Mares_nest

      Love, love, love, love, love you!  You and I both read the same article, and then focused on something, um, kinda extraneous.  Like when I watch soap operas to see the decor . . . .

  • Del Johnston

    I want to point out that the photo attached to #1 is a TIE/ln, while Vader flew a customized TIE/Advanced x1. You’re looking at either DS-61-2 or DS-61-3’s ship there.

  • Rmorrill

    but he also was totally backed by management, with the ear of the emperor, and knowing the emperor would support his decisions, he was good to go with awesome management helping him along.

  • Nicholas Chan

    Plus he had excellent HR skills….when Admiral Piett was seen to have allowed the Millenium Falcon to escape from Bespin, he realised that it was not the Admiral’s fault but the manipulations of a cranky R2 unit….Piett was not choked and would go on to be a influential Imperial officer

    • neverhome

      Until he allowed that pesky rebel star fighter to crash thru the windshield of his star destroyer. I also remember that actor (don’t recall his name) as being the commander who allowed Clint Eastwood to escape with the Russians’ new mig fighter in Fire Fox.

  • seattlesolo

    Adding to 1), like a good project manager should do at times, Vader gets into the trenches!

  • seattlesolo

    Adding to 1), like a good project manager should do at times, Vader gets into the trenches!

  • PM

    Nice work in writing the article. Still, I would have to disagree with the notion of Vader as a great project manager as he thoroughly lacked charisma and empathy

  • Rickallenmedia

    Vader was a poor project manager. This is why his projects always failed. He created the rebellion by being a child murdering sociopath. All for he supposed goal of bringing peace. To what end, the galaxy was in total war. Only people who want to justify their own evils claim that the Hitlers of the world were great men. So I guess Saddam Husein was a great project manager too right? You people need to forget what you think you know.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVX5H4ATZXLJKXNJB5XSPRIPHY Robert B

      I think you mean ‘ you people “must unlearn what you have learned”‘

    • http://www.facebook.com/aarongries Aaron Gries

      Way to prove Godwin’s Law! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

  • Cynthia Hartwig

    Brandon is a smart cookie, not because he understands Darth Vader, but because he’s married to a wonderful woman! I met your wife in a class she took with me. Just thought you should know (from an objective source). Say hi to Cynthia from the Two Pens Cynthia.

  • Pjwd

    This is a fantastic article and one I will refer to every once in a while to identify areas of my project management that could use more attention.  How to make a good point and get your message across; make it entertaining.  Well done, top marks.

  • zxcvbnm,

    Yeah.. all things good but let’s not forget the essential!
    Vader was an egotistical bastard who thought that his perspective was the only and the best one. That’s the main problem with these narcissist autoritarian but very complexed fellows.

    Napoleon also was an operational genius, but all that he succeded was to kill lots of people and create chaos and suffering.

    It’s not about “me the great leader”, it’s about “us the people” and the greatest qualities are compassion and understanding.

    Operational efficiency could spell disaster if you don’t really understand what are the implications of what you are doing…

    Be very efficient in building an atomic bomb and you’ll obliterate the entire planet.
    Good job Vader!!!

     That’s the problem with lots of PMs who do their best in getting the job done but fail to actually understand the complex implications of that….

    • Tenebris

      You mean, of course, that Napoléon succeeded in nothing except to create the Napoleonic Code: a shocking reform for the times, and the source or strong influence for the constitutions of dozens of countries around the world. It included such radical ideas as:

      * no privileges based on birth
      * public jobs based on merit only
      * freedom of religion

      Oh, and of course all those wars also pulled Europe once and for all out of the stagnated Westphalian pattern of more or less continuous warfare.

  • Othnielcope

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqDcKTY3yvA the story of ho he rebels really got the death star pln told vis the medium of bluegrass

  • Hilstad

    This illustrates a well known truth: psychopaths make the best project managers. They are pre-adapted to the role.

  • Ricardo Abreu

    Great article! As a Project Manager i have no doubt that Darth Vader have read the PMBOOK quite a few times !;)

  • Big Me

    Would that could be this simple the world

  • Big Me

    Would that could be this simple the world

  • TheChosen

    Great article, shared it with my whole PM department lol

  • L_retana

    The great advantage Darth vader had as a Project Manager is the ability to see the future, this can come handy in some situations

  • L_retana

    The great advantage Darth vader had as a Project Manager is the ability to see the future, this can come handy in some situations

  • Someone

    Aww, it’s Wookieepedia, double-e (:

  • Andrew

    It is interesting to note how a single minded pursuit of evil is misconstrued as a good project management.  It is like saying that Hitler was a good project manager. When he listen to his equality evil, lacking in moral fabrics, nutcase generals he managed to invade number of countries but only as stated above: because of the zero morality and extreme brutality inflicted on innocent civilians, and this coupled with more and better equipment that tipped the balance for a while but was totally ill prepared for the war and when he took over he managed successfully to screw up everything.  Otherwise he would have won the war and every nation would have gone over to his causes without a fight.  Darth Vader likewise is in the same category and lost the war and both lack one paramount quality – team play.
    The measure of a good project manager is delivering the project on time and budget (or better ahead of time and below budget), to all stake holders (including end user’s) and project team’s satisfaction.  Where everyone walks away from a project feeling that this was a great project to be associated with and talk about it for years to come as the best project that they ware part off.  If you kill just one person (irrespective of creed) as a project manager then you have dismally failed…  
    Yes at time one has to be strong and take strong measures but there is a fine thine line which if you cross it you become an evil dictator and one bound to sooner or later totally fail. You will also notice that arseholes like that blame everyone but themselves…
    Lest call a spade a spade and evil for what it is: evil…
    Do we learn from our mistakes?? Who do you consider a great project manager?? A team player that leads by example, motivates people and builds a team that includes all parties, follows through, empowers and inspires his/her people, or one who just dictates and shoots anyone in his path??
    Intersting how single minded persuit of the evil is considered good project management.

    • Anonymous

      Vader was not evil.

    • Anonymous

      Vader was not evil.

    • Anonymous

      Vader was not evil.

    • http://twitter.com/Burbatt Marque Burbatt

      Wow,  I can’t believe the comment refering to Hitler…Comparing a character in a MOVIE is like saying Hitler was a good project manager?  Are you kidding me?  Get real people.
      Let me tell you a little secret:  Darth Vader is actually a fictional character in the Star Wars saga.  He was not real.  I know this is difficult for you to believe, but he was actually created by George Lucas and was a character in films.  He was created to provide entertainment to millions of people.  He really did not try to rule the Galaxy and he did not kill innocent people or decimate entire planets.  It’s entirely fiction.

      Hitler was actually real.  He was responsible for World War II (the real one) and the holocaust.  He is responsible with causing the deaths of about 17million people, 7-8.5 million of those tied to the holocaust.  Again, NOT fiction.

      Please stop dissecting this to a point that it becomes absurd.  Just view it as it is.  Brandon is listing 10 things that makes a good project manager, and does it in a humorous way by association to a well known and well loved saga.  Maybe he could have written it about Luke or Yoda, but it wouldn’t have been as cool to read.  Time to dismount your high horse and laugh a little.

      • Marques mothers lover

        Well thanks a lot fucker. Just like when my older brother told me Santa wasn’t real, what a Debbie downer.

      • Tenebris

        So — exactly the same genocidal tendencies are highly amusing and good project management in fiction, but abhorrent when you consider exactly the same tendencies in real life?

        (Ah, but we must never *never* NEVER consider that there might be a comparison of any kind whatsoever.)

        And we must quickly rubbish all those analytical discussions about how original trilogy Star Wars parallels the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, not to mention all those *stormtroopers*. Javohl!

  • ZIGHAIL

    DARTH VADER!?  Should be HITLER!!

  • EnergyAceWayne

    This is brilliant!

  • Nddy_PMP

    I LOVE this article – thank you for sharing.
     And I am also enjoying some of the insightful comments!  However, I respectfully disagree with comments
    that compare Darth Vader to Hitler, Napoleon and Saddam.  

     

    Darth Vader was a Project Manager – in many
    cases successful, as noted in the article. For other projects he failed
    (Death Star x2).  Regardless of his project style, successes, failures,
    etc. what sets aside Vader from the others I mentioned above was that he had a
    project sponsor (The Emperor).  In the end Vader was a puppet, always
    reporting to and taking orders from the top dog. At times his various project
    priorities were shifted based on The Emperor’s needs, not his. People died
    because the sponsor said it was OK.  In the end, Vader had a nervous
    breakdown, disagreed with the priorities and quit (by killing the Emperor and
    eventually himself – a bit extreme, but it made the movie more fun).

     

    Hitler and Napoleon did not have a sponsor, nor
    did they ever want one.  They did what they felt was best for their
    country based on their own opinion.  In my opinion, they were very
    powerful managers in their peak, but they were never project managers.  In fact, at times they were more project
    sponsors than PM’s.  

     

    Saddam, at one time, was a project manager and
    became a dictator when he was let loose by his sponsors (certain countries, if
    you are a conspiracist). 

     

    In the end, let’s enjoy this article for what it
    is – a fun observation.  Why do we need
    to create a negative and compare fictional characters with names of real people
    that don’t deserve any more of our time?? 
    Thanks!

  • Nddy_PMP

    I LOVE this article – thank you for sharing.
     And I am also enjoying some of the insightful comments!  However, I respectfully disagree with comments
    that compare Darth Vader to Hitler, Napoleon and Saddam.  

     

    Darth Vader was a Project Manager – in many
    cases successful, as noted in the article. For other projects he failed
    (Death Star x2).  Regardless of his project style, successes, failures,
    etc. what sets aside Vader from the others I mentioned above was that he had a
    project sponsor (The Emperor).  In the end Vader was a puppet, always
    reporting to and taking orders from the top dog. At times his various project
    priorities were shifted based on The Emperor’s needs, not his. People died
    because the sponsor said it was OK.  In the end, Vader had a nervous
    breakdown, disagreed with the priorities and quit (by killing the Emperor and
    eventually himself – a bit extreme, but it made the movie more fun).

     

    Hitler and Napoleon did not have a sponsor, nor
    did they ever want one.  They did what they felt was best for their
    country based on their own opinion.  In my opinion, they were very
    powerful managers in their peak, but they were never project managers.  In fact, at times they were more project
    sponsors than PM’s.  

     

    Saddam, at one time, was a project manager and
    became a dictator when he was let loose by his sponsors (certain countries, if
    you are a conspiracist). 

     

    In the end, let’s enjoy this article for what it
    is – a fun observation.  Why do we need
    to create a negative and compare fictional characters with names of real people
    that don’t deserve any more of our time?? 
    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/bonder Bruce Onder

    Only one nit to pick – Scrum isn’t an acronym, so should not be presented in all capitals.

  • Anon

    Absolutely wonderful and wicked. :)

  • Brian M

    Darth Vader –  A sort of Steve Jobs of the future!

    • Akuto

      Don’t you mean “the past?”   “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

  • Caprica2007

    I love the article! Gets everyone’s attention. I have to beg to differ a little with the Nazi comparisons in the blog. The Emperor was Hitler. Vader was merely Rommel or Gehring, although he was more like Heinrich Himmler, an SS officer (remember the needle torture droid with Princess Leia). I’d say Vader was obviously mentally tortured from the top, as some corporate leaders to from time to time. “Get the job done, no matter what….but no overtime is authorized” So, back to the WWII analogy, in some aspects he did what he did to avoid the ovens or the gas chambers.And he damn well better be a great project manager!

  • Anonymous

    nice, excelente 

  • Anonymous

    nice, excelente 

  • Anonymous

    nice, excelente 

  • Anonymous

    Nice article, and while I agree for the most part, he wasn’t infallible. For example, the reactor core of the second Death Star. There was no back-up plan to account for losing the shields, and it left them completely vulnerable. They didn’t think they would have any trouble from a small band of rebels and some fuzzy, little Ewoks. There should have been a local back-up system on the Death Star that at least protected the reactor core.

    So, it’s a lesson for us all. When writing code, don’t forget to account for Ewoks!

  • Anonymous

    Nice article, and while I agree for the most part, he wasn’t infallible. For example, the reactor core of the second Death Star. There was no back-up plan to account for losing the shields, and it left them completely vulnerable. They didn’t think they would have any trouble from a small band of rebels and some fuzzy, little Ewoks. There should have been a local back-up system on the Death Star that at least protected the reactor core.

    So, it’s a lesson for us all. When writing code, don’t forget to account for Ewoks!

  • Andres Bayley Bustamante

    As an actual PM, I just want to say one thing. all of the above is good and all, but….

    1) What about budget and time constraints, he faile with the first Death Star, no slack in budget can cover for that, and lets face it, justifying an augument of that size with a customer conformed of a megalomaniac manager aint gonna be easy, yet he made it.

    But mainly and mostly, you forgot the golden rule

    2) A good PM DELIVERS. moral highground or not, he did NOT deliver. Ergo, scorecard goes to hell and he gets his behind canned (Literally)

  • neverhome

    Well, no one can fault Darth’s work ethic. But his people skills were somewhat questionable. :-)

  • simplicity

    Ha, ha, ha. I love #8. It summarizes what agile really is: rush through regardless how many vulnerabilities you leave behind. We know what ultimately happened to the Death Star.

  • FabioNegrao

    Only one observation: Vader flied a tie bomber, not a tie fighter.

  • Ncaajshow04

    wow

  • Count Zero

    Darth Vader probably studied Sun Tzu in his youth. ;)

  • Guest

    Lucas was very smart to present the audience with such a nefarious villain.  Effective villains build suspense and add credibility.

  • pma

    He didn’t do adequte risk management by placing the shield generator on the Moon of Endor, where a bunch of koalas could overwhelm the generator’s defenses and disable the shield.

  • http://twitter.com/jphfavre jean-philippe Favre

    Great article about PM, even that this guy was not really on the good side of the Force. Anyway, it is great to read this article and it is easier to remember the key points when they are written as such. Also on Darth Vader as PM, have a look at this video. Not on schedule for your project, try the Dath Vador’s way to PM. http://t.co/pUIY8QsW

  • Rain_lake

    That sounds interesting

  • peter

    I enjoyed your article, but have to disagree with you. Vader was a bad project manager – his project failed!!!

  • Anonymous

    I knew this from the day I had a project manager who acted like Lord Vader!

  • Djalma Gomes

    Interesting article.  He sure performed well in the empire.   But would Vader perform the same in another organization with a totally different culture?

    I guess it all comes to understand the organizational assets (like culture and standards) and pick the best approach/method/framework that is most suited to that especific context.   Then, conquer committment and trust from the main influencing stakeholders (like the management and the project team), implement an effective and efficient communication and finally lead the team towards the same objective.

    With all that done, we decrease level of conflicts and are able to prioritize and focus what needs to be prioritized.   So far, that´s the theory.

    In real life however, not everything depends entirely on the PM.  Resource bottlenecks, conflicting objetives from different stakehoders, decision delays and unexpected events (like strikes, the absence of someone in the team, legislation change, new market trends, etc….) reduce project eficiency and the project certainty.  Knowing this makes us less self-suficient as project managers and less fanatic towards this methodology or that framework.  It allow us to recognize the importance of some people in any sucessfull project and admit the contribution of others in some project failures. 

    As the old quote says, “Good project managers admit mistakes.  And that´s why it´s so hard to find good project managers”.  Cheers,

  • http://securityofficer.wordpress.com/ Aldo Silva

    Good article, Darth Vader could even be a good project manager, but the friendliness and charisma could undermine part of the project

    Aldo Silva
    http://hercules-now.com/

  • Martin Zych

    Awesome write up dude. I fwd’d it on to my project team for some inspiration (sans the whole doing evil stuff though) ;P

  • http://www.pulpseduction.fr Sophie

    Well written article ;-)

  • Dion Shaw

    Great article, Brandon! We can debate the merits of a fictional character in a real world settIng all day, as some have chosen. But as a tongue-in-cheek review of Vader as a PM, your points are wonderful.

    Thanks for the laugh and presenting a lighter side of PM.

  • Robert F.

    Is Darth Vader gonna hafta choak a Bitch?

  • http://www.osborneink.com OsborneInk

    Are you kidding? Darth Vader’s assault on Hoth is a perfect example of micromanagement – his staff was so afraid of him they screwed up their approach, landing, and screening of the rebel retreat. The second Death Star was running late and over budget and neither Death Star lasted through its first action. Darth Vader SUCKED at project management.

    • Tenebris

      Actually his staff overrode what Darth Vader recommended, and their override was why the screwed up approach happened. The second Death Star was running late *until* Darth Vader arrived to put it back on schedule. He was not its original project manager.

      Yet even fixing others’ mistakes takes time: and sometimes circumstances cause us to run out of time.

  • Amon wirthiem

    After reading the post automatically i got the attitude of  – “I shall double my efforts” – THANK (-:

  • A Developer

    Worst. Article. Ever.

  • http://twitter.com/anthonyfranco Anthony Franco

    One of our designers said it best:

     “I am so glad he never managed any of my projects.”

  • John

    Ha ha. Like Mussolini, and any dictator worth his salt, he kept the inter-galactic trains running.

  • http://wogan.me Wogan

    I wonder what his approval rating must have been…

  • Linda Lou

    Great article.  Very insightful.  Actually my boyfriend, who passed away last year, had pretty much the leadership style of Darth Vader.  Being born in 1941, he was one tough guy.  He was the owner of a copany in  retail.  Although he actually didn’t choke anyone on the job, he came pretty close; and when he was young, he never backed down from a physical fight.  Maybe Darth took lessons from him.

  • PMP Jedi

    Fantastic article!  There was a time when
    my project management methods were modeled after Vader’s. But I could never get the
    choking at a distance thing to work – I always had to do it up close and
    personal. I was very successful getting work done but the bodies I left in my
    wake were getting messy and beginning to smell – same as my career. 
     

    Fortunately, I found a mentor (no, not a
    little green guy) that helped me put my Vader-like approach to getting work
    done behind me and taught me the meaning of collaboration and agility!  I was a new man! My knuckles healed and I no
    longer needed to threaten people.  I’ve
    even stopped wearing my cape.  My
    projects do take a bit longer and I still haven’t fully stopped my growling
    when things aren’t going well, but everyone seems to like working with me. 

    This is hope for everyone… :-}

  • Lemko59

    seems Vader has much in common with former U.S. VP, Dick Cheney

  • http://twitter.com/32rickster Rick Sebok

    In the end, fear-based manipulation and treating people like robots failed…he lost.

  • PMSelf

    No offense, but with this argument, you could argue that Hitler was also a successful project leader.  If you don’t support ethics and morals, then where does one stand? 

  • http://www.sharifkhan.com/ Sharif

    Funny stuff. He also learned to harness the Force through deep breathing. 

  • Saladispmp

    I have used Darth Vader as an example when discussing leadership characteristics. I also referred to him as a project sponsor. I completely disagree with your assessment that he was a good project manager but I have to say that you were very creative in how you made your points.

  • http://twitter.com/_Cybernella Cybernella

    My boss is Darth Vader!!

  • George

    Rather than address it point by point, I will speak to your fatal flaw. Your article is written as an attorney would write it. This means that you emphasize points that would support your case and ignore those that would tend to prove it wrong. If you look at Vader’s overall performance, the fact remains that he failed in the accomplishment of EVERY project he attempted. That is certainly not the earmark of an “Amazing Project Manager”. He would have been fired by any organization that judged by results.

    • Tenebris

      Or as your average political debater would write it.

      Incidentally, Darth Vader was handed eight projects in the course of the films, not just two.

      * Find the missing plans (mixed success)
      * Find the rebel base (success, after taking over the project from Tarkin)
      * Convince his superiors about Obi-Wan Kenobi, then find and eliminate him (success)
      * Destroy the rebel fighters before they can harm the Death Star (successful until two powerful and previously unknown external factors became involved – Han and Luke)
      * Find and destroy the new rebel base (success)
      * Successfully bait Luke to a personal meeting at Cloud City (success)
      * Bring Luke before the Emperor (success)
      * Help the Emperor to convert Luke to the dark side (abject failure, which becomes success after Darth Vader revises the goal of being on the same side as his son)

      Death Stars 1 and 2 were not actually his projects! He was called in specially to place Death Star 2 “back on track” (only by then, it was already too late). He was also not in charge of the defense of either Death Star.

      Among his projects, he succeeded at most, failed at only a couple that were fully within his management — and other people who attempted them had already failed at every one of those projects.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jay-Taplin/100000015633501 Jay Taplin

    This… is… AWESOME!  I’m forwarding this to the staff at the company I work at… amazingly well written!!!!  Thank you!

  • LonelyTraveler

    Darth Vader also knew  when to outsource. When he couldn’t locate Han Solo, Princess Leia and the Millenium Falcon, he contracted it out to bounty hunters, keeping his troops focused on their core competencies :-)

  • GadgetGeek

    Lest we forget however that every project he managed blew up and in the end he killed his boss…

  • http://twitter.com/andrewzimmer906 Andrew Zimmer

    The Sith Lord Darth Vader, of Star Wars fame, often gets a bad rap….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEeAjy-05OI

    You’re welcome internet.

  • Fedos

    Why Darth Vader was an awful program manager: http://www.dau.mil/pubscats/ATL%20Docs/Sep-Oct11/Ward.pdf

  • http://www.facebook.com/brice.clifton Clifton Brice

    “I’m your boss!” “You’re Mr Stevens?”

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