It may seem an odd concept to write an article as this (and I can not disagree with that), but after coming up with the idea I can’t see ignoring the facts that the Jedi methods work incredibly well for business. It is easy to find a book or article about business concepts, but what fun is that. Almost everyone has seen the Star Wars movies which make this book more relatable and dare I even say entertaining. The idea came to me one day when I was discussing interesting role models for managers with several colleagues. I put off the idea thinking that it may be too silly, but over time the concept just keep compelling me to further consider the true opportunities. With that in mind I decided to do a little Star Wars research (not a very tough task, but a very daunting one) and my theory became even more substantiated. This article will discuss how some of the Jedi concepts can be applied to help a manager improve their management skills. So sit down relax, put on a Star Wars soundtrack (I prefer the Empire Strikes Back) and enjoy the article. I may expand on this with other articles later.
Every organization has a hierarchy, even if it is informal. It is quite amazing when you think about it that society as a whole has a hierarchy, for example the middle class compared to the high class. Each segment has advantages as well as disadvantages. As a company’s power grows their social responsibility seems to increases as well. The Jedi also posses a system which has a similar approach and we can apply that to our business activities. The Jedi have a well established organizational hierarchy the bottom of their organizational pyramid starts with a Jedi Initiate, these are prospective Jedi’s, this would be the equivalent of a person receiving a job interview at an prospective organization. The Jedi would evaluate the candidates’ qualifications to see which candidates meet their requirements. After the prospects have been selected (or “hired” if you will) they would begin to learn and operate within the organization. After some time the Jedi Initiate would move up to a Jedi Padawan which is much like an organizations apprentice, or newly hired employee during their first 90 days. During this stage a Jedi master will begin to teach the apprentice (or in this case Padawan) about the organization’s culture and operations. Depending on the Padawan’s skills’ they would be placed in a particular area where their talents seem to be the strongest. This would be similar to organizational departmentalization. Now let’s consider that the Jedi or employee is in the Human Resource department, they may start as an administrative assistant. The Jedi master will teach the student the necessary skills to be successful; this is where many of our organizations struggle. In order for an organization to grow the knowledge base of the employees must also grow. If a manager (or Jedi Master) was to withhold information the student would fail to grow and master the skills in turn stifling the organizations growth. It seems odd that a manager would ever withhold information but there are some clear signs why this may occur, for example A Jedi master or managers may be afraid that the student will pass them by or replace them. This fear does have merit since some organizations have been known to hire new employees, train them and then use them to replace the current management (at a lower rate to cut costs). Others sometimes feel that it will take away from what makes them special to the organization. These actions can greatly hinder an organization by crippling its ability to learn and grow (imagine a Jedi Padawan running into a battle without training). Without proper training a person would be more likely to make costly mistakes which could lead to an organization’s demise.
Once a Jedi Padawan becomes more adequately trained they become what are known as a Jedi Knight which is a Jedi that is disciplined and could become a fully trained Jedi once they compete particular trials. This position is much like a team leader or entry level manager, ore even an employee with implied power. In other words they may not have a fancy title but their knowledge is respected and other employees may come to them for guidance.
The next step up on the hierarchal pyramid is the Jedi Maser, which is a Jedi Knight who has shown great understanding of the force and has managed to instruct a Padawan to help them become a successful Jedi Knight. This title can also be achieved with the performance of extraordinary deeds. Now lets look at this from a management perspective, this would be a person who was promoted to become a manager. A manager needs to be able to train others in order to help the organizations educational level and skills increase. Another popular way for an aspiring employee to gain a promotion is by providing above average work and excelling above the other employees within the organization. Success at the managerial position requires many skills such as the ability to communicate ideas, instruct employees, the ability to make decisions with or without all of the facts, lead by positive example, constructively motivate, and possess strong stress management skills. This position is often called middle management and it is know to be one of the toughest positions to work in.
The next level of the pyramid a Jedi may reach is one that very few ever have the chance to become which called a Consular (a council member). This group is made up of wise, experienced masters. This is an especially talented group assembled to make key decisions. You may ask how does this apply to management, have you ever heard of work teams? Workplaces assemble teams composed of employees with special skills to work on important projects. The concept of the team is to enable the company to come up with an idea or a plan that would be better than what one person could generate alone. A well functioning team should be composed of employees with varied talents enabling the team to contemplate the impact of every proposal on the organization as a whole. Statistical data has established that teams come up with more creative and successful ideas than people working individually. If you have watched Star Wars you would have noticed that key members of the Jedi gather together to discuss matters of significant importance to produce better long term plans of action. Also note that many times the best organizational ideas come from the employees which means that the more educated, skilled, and informed the employees are the better their decision making may become.
At the very top of the Jedi pyramid they have the position titled Grand Master; this is the highest position for a Jedi. One of the most popular Jedi masters is Yoda. If you are even remotely familiar with Star Wars you know that Yoda was considered to be highly skilled, experienced, wise and trustworthy. This position would be considered as top management for an organization and usually has the title such as CEO or president. At this position a manager is expected to have vast knowledge of the industry, displayed great leadership and experience, and possess strong ethics and critical thinking skills.
So as you can see we can apply the tools of the Jedi in order to help organizations learn and grow to be more successful.