The Dark Side of a JEDI culture

The underlying message from leadership is the same – Just Do It.
Just do whatever is needed to get the new product launched, to get the customer into service, to win that deal. Just get it done and worry about the details later.

Most people will get a directive like this at some point during their career. It can often be a good thing! Challenging the way things have always been done. Allowing creativity to flourish as people rise to the challenge without being fettered by established process. Unlocking the potential to delight customers with enhanced products or services. Securing that big win that makes a difference to the future of the company.

Can you remember when you worked on something out of the norm like that and how it felt? I have experienced several JEDI projects during my career and vividly remember the exhilaration of creating new ways of working on the fly, a passion for making sure the project was a success, a sense of being in the thick of things with the project team. These projects stand out in my memory significantly more than the countless other projects which followed standard delivery processes. Each came with a massive learning curve that tested me, stretched me and resulted in me growing as a person. If you haven’t experienced a project like this then do take the opportunity when it comes up as the personal development you will get in return is worth it.

If the concept of JEDI projects is a good one, shouldn’t we do more and more of them? Unchain ourselves from process, keep our staff challenged, increase our service offerings, do more new things to keep our customers happy?

Sound good? A word of caution – where there is JEDI there is also a Dark Side.

The JEDI projects I have experienced that have been truly successful are the ones where the “worry about the details later” part was addressed right after the project was delivered. There was a chance to digest what had been done and capture lessons learned. Do post-project wash-ups with all the teams involved to ensure all their key needs have been implemented so they know how to work with, support and manage the new thing that has been delivered. Project delivery processes can be adjusted to take the best of what worked and create greater efficiency for all projects that follow. There is a period of adjustment, consolidation and business as usual to allow everything to settle.

However, in many organisations today, time pressure, lack of resources and lack of effective leadership leads to JEDI projects becoming the norm rather than the exception. The Dark Side starts to take over when one JEDI project follows another, then another, then another. There is no consolidation time; the details are left to fend for themselves, and will often come back to bite. The business struggles to scale due so many bespoke processes being in place to manage day to day operations. Efficiencies are lost, teams are over-stretched just carrying out their normal tasks, morale takes a nose-dive, people start to look for other opportunities.

JEDI projects do have their place in today’s organisations but take care not to be seduced by the Dark Side and sacrifice long term business success for short term gain.