Darth Vader and the Product Owner Role
If the Empire had used Scrum, then Darth Vader would surely have been considered the Product Owner for the Death Star. While Darth Vader does appear to have engaged in some of the traditional activities of a Product Owner, such as stakeholder engagement, his methods and his lack of faith in the Scrum framework are… disturbing.
Living the Values
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. 1977.
In Star Wars: A New Hope, Darth Vader used the Force to choke Admiral Motti because Motti expressed contempt for Darth Vader's dedication to the Force and called the Death Star the "ultimate power in the Universe".
Listen, we all found him annoying. But force choking other Scrum team members is NOT in accordance with the Scrum values.
As Scrum Team members, we are ALL accountable for living the five Scrum values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Courage…. and Respect.
According to the Scrum Guide, “Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people, and are respected as such by the people with whom they work.” Neither Kai Loren nor Darth Vader seem to have heard of this.
Scrum Teams are self-managing
Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. 1980.
In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader uses the force to kill Admiral Ozzel because he made the decision to come out of light speed too close to the rebel base, which allowed the rebels to detect the Imperial fleet.
I get it. Sometimes the Developers are not able to deliver the value that you hoped for. You’re frustrated. You’re angry. But how developers turn Product Backlog Items into valuable increments of Product really is up to them. By interfering with the Developers, Darth Vader is reducing their ability to self-manage, thereby negatively impacting the efficiency of his team.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. 1980.
Darth Vader’s record on Stakeholder engagement is, frankly, mixed. On the good side, Darth Vader did demonstrate a clear commitment to stakeholder engagement on several occasions. In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader discontinued pursuit of the Millennium Falcon and ordered his fleet out of an asteroid belt in order to take a call from a stakeholder. Additionally, in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader personally escorted the Emperor on a tour of the nearly completed Death Star. These are both clearly examples of stakeholder engagement… even if Darth Vader isn’t exactly an empowered Product Owner.
On the Dark Side, in Star Wars: A New Hope, Darth Vader chokes Captain Antilles by the neck while demanding to know “What have you done with those plans!” This is clearly not a great example of stakeholder engagement.
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. 1983.
In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader provides an update to the Emperor on the progress of the construction of the Death Star. During his update, Darth Vader simply asserts that the Death Star WILL be completed on schedule, despite his knowledge that construction was, in fact, behind schedule. Darth Vader then uses a campaign of intimidation and threats to accelerate product delivery.
Forecasting is an art - but it shouldn’t be wish fulfillment. Darth Vader’s lack of Transparency cost many trillions of lives over the course of several movies.
Darth Vader’s lack of faith in the Scrum framework really is disturbing and - what’s more - it had a negative impact on his ability to function as an effective Product Owner. Don’t be Darth Vader. Join Rebel Scrum.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out If the Empire had used Scrum...
About Mary Iqbal
Mary has trained more than 1,000 people in Agile, Scrum and Kanban. She has guided the Agile transformation for organizations with more than 60 teams and has led the creation of new products from product definition through self-organization and launch. Mary is the founder of Rebel Scrum, a consulting company that helps teams transform to Agile and provides training and coaching services founded upon practical experience. Rebel Scrum has experience in large-scale agile transformations in a variety of environments including technology and business transformations. Signup for one of Rebel Scrum's upcoming public scrum training classes or contact us to discuss private Scrum training and consulting options for your organization.