UK: Intergalactic teamwork triumphs.

UK: Intergalactic teamwork triumphs. - As a parable for a battle between two huge corporations, Rhymer Rigby finds that Star Wars is a showcase of all the best management techniques - teams in action, lean organisations, knowledge management.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As a parable for a battle between two huge corporations, Rhymer Rigby finds that Star Wars is a showcase of all the best management techniques - teams in action, lean organisations, knowledge management.

In a sense, Star Wars is a bit like Sun Tzu's Art of War - both concern events that happened a long time ago and far, far away. And, to the modern business person, both are as relevant as tomorrow's Financial Times. Star Wars offers us a parable for two huge corporations slugging it out under duopoly conditions, each with its strengths and weaknesses: one is better resourced and run; the other more creative, flexible and reliant on its human capital.

After experiencing a period of early career stagnation, a series of chance events bring the film's hero - a young trainee called Luke Skywalker - into contact, first, with a respected consultant, then with the Rebel Alliance's chief executive officer, Princess Leia. Luke quickly becomes a valued team member and his employer shows gratitude by bankrolling his training and development - an investment that pays handsome dividends.

On the way, we see all the best management techniques showcased - teams in action, lean organisations, knowledge management ... and there can be no finer example of mentoring than Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ben).

At the outset, Luke, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Ben and Chewbacca are hardly appreciative of diversity. Han considers Leia a toffish, prissy woman and Ben, an old man obsessed with a dying religion. Luke sees Han as a mercenary spiv and Chewbacca (above), a wookie with an all-over body rug, as a 'big walking carpet'. Even Luke's personal assistant R2D2 doesn't realise that it is in the wookie culture to tear off an opponent's arm when beaten at 3D chess. Like most teams, they eventually come to realise that each has something to contribute.

As chief executive of the Empire (the emperor is chairman), Lord Vader rarely gets the chance to spend time 'at the coal face'. So when he hears that Luke and co are attacking the Death Star, he sees an excellent opportunity to experience the trials and tribulations of his employees - and to generate a little good PR besides. His gesture rather backfires, however. Luke manages to destroy the reactor, sending Vader spinning off into space, while the rest of the workforce experience a thermonuclear explosion at uncomfortably close quarters.

Darth Vader is keen to promote the Empire's new attraction - the Death Star. He realises that conventional advertising is unlikely to make any real impact and decides to nuke an entire world and its inhabitants, a bold ploy that works on several levels. First, it tells a bolshy Princess Leia that he means business. Second, it creates a huge disturbance in the force, showing Jedi Knights (Ben) and their acolytes (Luke) that he is not to be trifled with. Finally, it effectively communicates his notions of the value of human life.

Many concerns go under because they focus on immediate returns and fail to invest for the future. No one is more aware of this problem than Ben (above). Which is why, when duelling with Darth Vader, he makes the ultimate capital investment, allowing his adversary to kill him. As Ben explains: 'You can't win. If you strike me down, I'll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.' Prophetic words - Ben's long-term commitment puts young Luke on the Jedi 'fast track' and will ultimately result in the triumph of good over evil.

Thanks to some daring teamwork by Luke and Han, the Rebel Alliance (plc) destroys the Death Star and achieves its year-end goals. As executive chairperson, Leia wants to recognise her employees' contributions to the bottom line without frittering away serious cash.

Like McDonald's with its 'Employee of the Month' scheme, she 'recognises' them by giving them medals. This way, Luke, Han and Chewbacca feel their bosses really care and Leia walks away with her porky executive bonus intact.

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