Lessons Learned from the Failure of the Jedi Talent Strategy

Note: I was inspired by the recent lrnchat StarWars theme (http://www.lrnchat.com/) and decided to write this little parody:

Memo to the provisional government in Coruscant, committee for post rebellion leadership development by Princess Leia.

Dear committee members,

I am writing to you to give an overview of the Jedi Talent Strategies for recruitment, performance management, learning and development and succession planning and key areas of weakness that led to the dissolution of the program.

  • Recruitment: The use of arcane credentials like the blood-count of midi-chlorians does not take into account personal characteristics both positive and negative as evidenced by Anakin Skywalker. It also can lead to nepotism, as in the case of Luke Skywalker, which discourages diversity.
  • Performance Management: High Potentials like Anakin Skywalker were not given consistent feedback on negative performance. Perhaps his supervisor didn’t make clear that a key performance indicator of the task of protecting Senator Amidala was to not take her to enemy territory. At the other extreme, having one’s hand cut off seems to be an excessive punishment for Luke Skywalker’s poor performance in a situation where he was clearly set up to fail.
  • Learning and Development:
    • Mentorship: The Master/Paduan format of Jedi training was effective for on-the-job training like all apprenticeship models but where it broke down was the propensity for instructors to get killed during training engagements.
    • Formal Programs: The downsizing of the Jedi training program under Master Yoda led to serious issues in the Dagobah training program. The training facility being a swamp had temperature and humidity problems. The instructor, Master Yoda, did not introduce himself properly until near the end of the first day’s session. The Darth Vader simulation in the cave was realistic and engaging but the learning objective was unclear. There was a link in the rock levitation module to an on-the-job learning experience however, it was impossible to participate without exiting the current training program. The program itself didn’t seem to have a defined completion criteria. Most importantly, the cost of procuring a military vehicle for transporting one student to a distant site and then having the craft cleaned and refurbished afterwords leads to serious questioning of the ROI of this formal training program.
    • Learning Technology: It is strange that in a technological society, the training function would be the last to get the latest developments. Although very convenient, it doesn’t seem sustainable to have Jedi training equipment standard on smuggling vessels. The library at the Jedi temple was not secure against hacking. There was a bandwidth problem in the holographic distance learning tools. Most importantly the Jedi suffered from a lack of a Learning Management System which could have better tracked at risk students. Of course this would have been moot once the student population was reduced to one.
  • Succession Planning: Prophecy does not replace a rigorous vetting process for future leaders. Also, overconfidence in your institution does not preclude you from developing a good business continuity plan in case one of your high-potentials massacres the rest of the organization. Insufficient systems will promote silos and shadow organizations but even the Sith had succession problems due to their policy of a 1-1 teacher-student ratio. Both the Jedi and the Sith suffered from lack of clarity around their succession plans, which proved highly disappointing for Count Dooku and potentially awkward for Luke Skywalker’s romantic plans.

In conclusion, the Jedi Talent Strategy was undone by a combination of hubris and lack of commitment to lang range plans. Luke Skywalker is currently overwhelmed with the task of building a new organization. We are considering the implementation of social media by having an interplanetary meditation chat with prospective students. Luke has already started a blog and a wiki but he has been whining that he doesn’t like to write. Regardless, we are hopeful that these steps will lead to success.

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2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from the Failure of the Jedi Talent Strategy

  1. Adam, I’m confused. You described the talent process at my last corporate stop. Leaders were chosen by knowing that they were leaders. All very Jedi.

    Thanks for the laugh

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