The Fourth of May is a day of celebration for Star Wars fans worldwide (#MaytheFourthbewithyou). Here at Mavenlink, we’d like to celebrate by sharing the opening scene of Return of the Jedi, and the five project management lessons you can learn from the failing Death Star project.
The holiday was originally spurred from a play on the saga’s famous quote, “May the Force be with you.” Today has been dubbed #StarWarsDay and you’ll find both sides of the force paying homage to the phenomenon. Here at Mavenlink, we’d like to take this day to reflect on how the opening scene of Return of the Jedi can teach us critical lessons related to project management.
The opening scene of Star Wars: Episode IV, Return of the Jedi, begins with an eerily accurate depiction of a project that has failed to be properly scoped or resourced. The scene opens with Darth Vader visiting Commandor Moff Jejerrod (the Death Star’s project manager, for all intesive purposes). Vader is dissatisfied with the progress of the project, and Jejerrod has no choice but to pick up the pace.
Project management can feel like you are being pulled in each direction, so just imagine having Darth Vader as your boss, and the Emporor as your CEO. There are a few lessons we can learn from the Death Star discussions between Jerjerrod and Vader.
Moff Jerjerrod: Lord Vader, this is an unexpected pleasure. We are honored by your presence
Darth Vader: You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander. I’m here to put you back on schedule.
Moff Jerjerrod: I assure you, Lord Vader. My men are working as fast as they can.
Darth Vader: Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.
Moff Jerjerrod: I tell you, this station will be operational as planned.
Darth Vader: The emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.
Moff Jerjerrod: But, he asks the impossible. I need more men!
Darth Vader: Then perhaps you can tell him when he arrives.
Moff Jerjerrod: The Emperor’s coming here?
Darth Vader: That is correct, Commander. And, he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.
Moff Jerjerrod: We shall double our efforts!
Darth Vader: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.
Lessons to Learn from Return of the Jedi
1. Set Realistic Expectations
At the start of a project, understand the project expectations and determine what your resources are capable of. Before the project is kicked off, take time to estimate what tasks will be required and what resources will be necessary to achieve them.
2. Establish Project Scope
You can define the project scope to understand the project timeline, budget, and potential roadblocks. Most importantly, a properly scoped project will allow a resource manager to understand what roles are required on this project and if they have the capacity to fill the demand at this point in time.
3. Estimate Resource Need
Instead of panicking when your project isn’t pacing as it should be, ensure that all required resources will be available when the project is kicked off. Unlike Jerjerrod, don’t wait until you are drowning to ask for more resources. Once the requirements for the project are communicated, you can begin to estimate the types and amount of roles required for a given project. Once the project is underway, any change will cause major disruptions across the team.
4. Be Prepared for Change
Despite the fact that your boss may be a little more leinient than Darth Vader, it is still imperative to be prepared for the worst. Project scope changes, resources move around, and expectations can shift. In the case that your project experiences changes in the middle of the lifecycle, be prepared with backup resources and plans in case of chaos.
5. Properly Schedule Resources
As noted by Jerjerrod, to finish the Death Star would require either, 1) More men or 2) Men working quicker. Unfortunately for Jerjerrod, it seems that getting more resources is out of the question unless he wants to feel the Force. The only way to see immediate progress is to double the efforts of the team. In a world outside of Star Wars, this would be OT, pulling resources off of other projects, and spreading employees thin. Think long and hard when scheduling resources to a project or you may face a scene much like the opener in Return of the Jedi