10 Signs Your Strategic Execution May Be on a Path to the Dark Side

With the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the battle between the Light and Dark sides of the Force that it inevitably involves, I couldn’t help but come up with a list of 10 things to look out for to make sure your organization’s strategy management and execution efforts aren’t headed in the direction of Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. 

No matter how good your organization may be at managing and executing your strategy, there is always a few individuals who will try to lead a group of strategy execution Jedis down the path to the Dark Side.  Here’s a list of what to look out for:

Sign #1 – This isn’t the data we are looking for.  Do not let denizens of the Dark Side use Jedi mind tricks to convince you that the data they are providing is the data you need, when it isn’t.  Early on in strategy execution, you have to make do with the best data you can get, but as your organization becomes more mature, you should know what’s available and insist it is delivered.  

Sign #2 – I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further.  When Lando protested to Darth Vader that he was changing their original deal to lure Luke to Cloud City, Vader responded with this classic line.  Don’t allow the Sith Lords in your organization to constantly change measures and/or targets.  You cannot consistently track your strategy execution if you are constantly changing them—hitting a moving target is a lot harder than bullseye-ing womp rats with your T-16 back home.

Sign #3 – I find your lack of faith disturbing.  It is one of the surest signs you are heading down the path to the Dark Side when people are telling you they don’t have the measure data, but just trust them that everything is OK and if you don’t trust them, you are the problem.  Blind faith in the Force is one thing, blind faith that your organization is executing its strategy without hard data to back it up, is another.

Sign #4 – Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.  Strategy-focused organizations cannot be successful if they are too dependent on their one or two Jedi Masters, as Leia was at first for help to defeat the Empire.  Everyone has to own the strategy and its execution, if you are too reliant on a Jedi council.

Sign #5 – Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.  A critical part of executing any strategy is to collect measure data, review it, and make data based strategic decisions.  However, when reviewing and interpreting the data, you have to be as objective as possible.  When organizations begin to resort to rationalizations for what the numbers are telling them, the Dark Side isn’t that far off.

Sign #6 – Never tell me the odds.  Unfortunately, most organizations don’t—and shouldn’t—operate like Han Solo—a smarty-alec-y swashbuckling Starfighter pilot—so knowing the odds, or having historical data to base your strategic decisions on, is critical to successfully implementing your strategy.  In some cases, there may not be any historical data or benchmarks that you can use, but having no frame of reference will put you at a disadvantage.

Sign #7 – Patience you must have.  One of the many wise statements from the Jedi Master Yoda.  Remember, you aren’t going to see results from strategy execution immediately, it takes some time for initiatives to start to have impact.  Patience is critical.  Abandoning your strategy before it even has time to take root and make an impact is exactly what the First Order wants you to do.

Sign #8 – I have a bad feeling about this.  You can attribute this quote to one of several figures in the original Star Wars trilogy—Obi-Wan, Han, Luke, or Leia—but the truth of the matter is that hand-in-hand with Sign #7 above, you can’t jump ship when things may be looking bad.  If you are executing the right way, you aren’t just putting your faith in the Force.  You can implement new initiatives to help improve your performance.

Sign #9 – Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.  This is what implementing the Balanced Scorecard or any strategy management framework should be all about—measurement motivates.  However, if you choose to follow the Darth Vader playbook and motivate out of fear, you probably aren’t going to get the results you want.

Sign #10 – The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.  I think it is a general rule of thumb that when you want to sound wise, you can never quote Yoda too much.  Your people must believe that they have a hand in their success and not be resigned to a system forced upon them.  To reinforce Sign #9, if they operate in fear of being fired, you’ve already given in to the Dark Side.

Remember, joining the Dark Side isn’t necessarily a conscious decision and it may be a long steady journey rather than a sudden, impulse.  Throughout your strategy execution journey, be on the lookout for some of the signs I’ve highlighted above and may the Force be with you.