5 Game of Thrones Lessons For Project Managers

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Game of Thrones is running the final lap, and mixed feelings are topping us.

“GoT is the greatest TV show ever”. Now that I have got this phrase off my chest, for the sake of this write-up, let’s set aside our emotional biases and extract some genuine lessons, especially for project managers.

GoT covers the entire gamut of human reactions and attitudes, be it passion, hope, despair, courage, irrationality, rationality, you name it. This is why it has resulted in events and scenarios, that carry so many life lessons. Some of them are quite relevant for project managers as well.

Project Management calls for people to people interaction, be it during product discovery sessions, or round table discussions.

The quality and consequence of such interactions depend on the reactions and attitudes of project managers. Hence, GoT is an ideal reference for them, to learn what not to do.

Here are the 5 Project Management lessons to learn from Game of Thrones.

1. The key is to know the key players. Be connected.

Think of Lord Varys. He is the ultimate networker, who built a network of whisperers, bringing the happenings of the world at his feet.

Project Managers can learn a thing or two from Lord Varys, the Master of Whisperers. He kept in touch with the realities of the changing times, his enemies, his friends, and competition, through a well-knit network of spies.

It won’t be wrong to say that Project Managers slug it out on their own battlefield, keeping an eye on the stakeholders or partners, who are upping their game, working on similar products, and developing a better understanding of the product.

Therefore, they need to have a good network within the startup ecosystem, where a new product is being born every day.

2. Don’t be resistive to change. Learn to enjoy suspense.

Change is the only constant. For people who are into stoic philosophy, this is their life’s mantra This is what GoT teaches us and this is greatly relevant for Project Managers too.

Don’t cling to old times. Relevancy is the key today.

In the sphere of Project Management, Agile is the way to go, and one needs to cling to it, to remain relevant. As project managers, you need to be adaptive and enjoy the suspense of the future ways, that will become the new normal.

Think of Lord Eddard Stark who lived by the book. “Our way is the old way”, is something he deeply believed in. Things worked for him to some extent, when people weren’t that politically motivated, and everything was hunky dory. But the tables turned in the politics-centric environment of King’s Landing, as Stark became irrelevant. In the end, he was labeled as a traitor and was executed eventually.

3. Bring balance in your perspectives. Having biases can get you killed.

If you identify yourself with Project Management, you are bound to get deeply involved in your project. You will drink, sleep, and eat it.

Somehow your survival instinct takes over, and you simply start fighting for your perception and idea about the product, thereby overlooking the flaws. So, getting involved is good, but learn to draw a line too.

Learn from Catelyn Stark, The Lady of Winterfell. Her wisdom was sabotaged by her love for her five children. She mishandled and ill-treated Jon Snow, her stepson, which made him relinquish his family. She ordered the arrest of Tyrion Lannister for the failed assassination of his son, but without any genuine evidence.

What happened because of that? Lannisters got infuriated and war broke out between two of the biggest Houses of Westeros.

For project managers, it’s important to look closer, but it’s equally important for them to look broader, or the entire project can land into jeopardy.

So, keeping calm and a balanced perspective is a way forward.

4. Don’t stand up for every goddamn battle. Be Choosy.

In life, there is resistance, a lot it. There are people who create such resistance. To how many people you want to stand up against, is a matter of wisdom. It’s important not to get involved in every battle, otherwise, you yourself become the source of the problem. You yourself become a battle.

If you are a project manager, you don’t need to get involved in every discussion related to the product. At times, some of the discussions and conclusions are based on biases and prejudices. So it’s important for you to keep your understanding intact. You can do this by being choosy with your discussions.

Think of Theon Greyjoy who simply threw himself into battles, resulting in all that heart-wrenching bloodshed. He himself got captured and pulverized in the end.

5. Water finds its own level. Don’t be stubborn. 

If you have followed the graph of Stannis Baratheon, then you must be knowing that he was a stubborn wreck. He knew he didn’t have enough resources, but still, he kept on fighting.

Because of his irrationality, half of his army deserted him when he attempted a siege on King’s Landing. Even after Tyron Lannister completely destroyed Stannis’s fleet with a firelit arrow and killed hundreds of men, Stannis didn’t back out.

He could have easily retreated, to fight another day. But riding on his stubbornness, he rushed into things. And what happened? He suffered a crushing defeat.

It’s important to understand your resources as project managers. Know your team’s capabilities and willingness to move in a certain direction. Know your timeline, and give your team breathing space. Don’t rush into the project.

These are the lessons that we curated. But the depth of an epic like GoT can’t be scaled in a single write-up. There must be so many other lessons that are yet to be unraveled. You can also read a more formal guide on tackling project management challenges. 

We are sure you don’t belong to that 0.1%, that haven’t watched GoT. So tell us what you took away, as a professional, from this iconic series. The comment section is waiting to hear you out.

Sadanand is a content curator and strategist. He understands the Startup gamut, be it ideation, product development, team building, sales, or marketing, and likes to keep up with the trend. His lucid writing style makes up for an intriguing read. His writeups are greatly followed and admired in various communities.