Strategy – What Can We Learn From The Empire in Starwars



Anyone who knows me, knows I am a Starwars fan. Watching the original film A New Hope with my two young sons I started thinking to myself that the long term strategy of the Empire had lots of similarities with what makes a truly greatĀ business as defined by Jim Collins and his team in Good to Great. Over the next few weeks I am going to break down the 4 key decisions; Strategy, People, Execution and Cash using the Starwars story to demonstrate the potential learnings in each of those areas.

Strategy is all about long term top line growth, simply put, it’s about coming up with a plan to generate sales next month, next year and even next decade (although the later is getting harder to figure out with the pace of change hitting us as we go forward). In the years that we have been helping management teams grow their business, not one of those businesses has the essential fundamentals for any strategy clearly defined, making it very hard for them to figure out where they need to go next.

Lets look at Emperor Palpatine in Starwars, he may be of questionable character (depending on your own values) but there is no denying that he was very successful for a very long time, so what did he have that was potentially missing from his competitors, namely the Rebel Alliance.

He had purpose, he wanted order throughout the galaxy, no mean feat with thousands of species and home worlds all fighting to achieve their own agendas. Whilst they are fighting the opportunity for slavers, pirates and other criminal elements got out of control leaving the majority of the civilian population feeling unsafe.

He had a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAGĀ®) of ruling the galaxy under one governing body and providing stability in the galaxy.

The key connection I want to make here is that his purpose drove everything he did in his life and his BHAG also drove him for over 100 years, meaning that these elements are long term goals and indeed the purpose often is compelling enough that it will never be fulfilled but it’s pursuit will make the world around any business a better place. With that single minded approach of Emperor Palpatine was a compelling element to his success, same as can be said of Steve Jobs and Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, Richard Branson and Virgin, Geoff Bezos and Amazon the list could go on.

Of course once you have identified the reason why your business exists and what impact it is going to make in the world around it you will need the right people to help you achieve the longer term strategy. Look out for our next blog that will continue the Starwars theme and discuss how people make the difference.