Warning: If you’re
planning to watch any Marvel Universe movies but somehow just haven’t gotten
around to it, plot spoilers follow. But then, on the other hand, if you haven’t
already watched any of these movies you probably never will, which will make
what follows just a bit less compelling. Such are the hazards of building an
intellectual edifice on a pop culture foundation.
I have a weakness for superhero movies. I also have a
weakness for chewing on Hey, Waitasec! questions that don’t occur to me until a
few days later.
That’s questions like why, in the first Avengers movie, during the whole battle for New York City, the
entire U.S. Airforce never bothered to show up.
But never mind that. We can chalk it up to dramatic license, because had a squadron or two of advanced jet fighters equipped with heat seeking missiles joined in, this would have just cramped our superheroes’ style(s).
doesn’t get off so easily.
Oh, don’t be like that. My gripe: The entire plot centers on
the most technologically advanced country on the planet, Wakanda, relying on a governance
model built on an inherited monarchy complemented with trial by combat.
What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty could, and in the movie it does. What fixes it? If
you’re thinking it’s everyone in Wakanda saying, “Hey, waitasec! Shouldn’t
we be convening a constitutional convention?” you’d be wrong. It ends up
getting fixed by a second trial by combat, with everyone in Wakanda perfectly
willing to follow the lead of a bullying psychopath should he win round two as
He doesn’t — the good guy wins this one, luckily enough —
but really, this is a terrible way for a nation to decide on who is going to
What does this have to do with you and your leadership
Well, maybe it’s a stretch, but some executives do seem to admire the trial-by-combat approach to choosing who gets to decide what, and how. They encourage inter-manager rivalries on the grounds that this leads to more energy and initiative.
Which it does. That the energy and initiative are largely wasted doesn’t seem to matter very much.
Less of a stretch is something fundamental in any
organization, from the board of directors on down: Figuring out how to choose
the right person to put in charge of each area of responsibility.
The lesson from Black
Panther? Strip away the plot and specific characters and you come to this:
The tests through which Wakanda chooses its leader have nothing at all to do
with the tests its leader has to deal with when holding its leadership office.
Well, in the movie it sorta does because in it the leader
doesn’t lead all that much. He acts like those fighting alongside him only
better. Yes, he’s inspirational, but no, he doesn’t seem to think in terms of
strategy, tactics, and logistics all that much.
Or, more broadly, that leaders of any organization need to think in terms of … well, in terms of the eight tasks of leadership.
Anyway, when choosing the leaders who report to you, don’t
make this mistake. Too many times, executives outsmart themselves when choosing
managers, when an unstructured conversation built around “These are the
challenges you’re going to face if I put you in the job. How would you go about
facing them?” would do the job far better, and far more naturally.
But enough carping about Black
Panther. Let’s carp about The Avengers:
The Age of Ultron instead, and more specifically, how much better things
would have turned out had Tony Stark understood a core principle of application
development: You always test software. Testing it before you put it in
production is better.
I mean seriously: Launching a full-fledged, self-motivated
AI into PROD … in this case, a real-world environment in which it had full
access to a wide range of destructive weaponry … without first examining its
behavior in TEST? Seriously?
Now to be fair, had Tony Stark followed standard testing
protocols followed by ITIL-style change management, the movie would have been
But since there was a movie, and in it you can see what
happens with insufficient testing protocols, maybe this would be a good time to
review your own testing methods … not only when you deploy software, but also
when you deploy new processes and practices that affect how Real Paying
Customers do business with your business.
I’m on vacation this week, so I’ll leave you to finish it.
Your homework assignment: In the Comments, post your Hey, Waitasec! analysis of
Captain America: Civil War.
And yes, plot spoilers are encouraged.