The Star Wars guide to Quality Improvement

Despite being a galaxy far, far away the principles of quality improvement still hold. Here is what we can learn from some of the main Star Wars protagonists…

Yoda (The Improvement Guru)


Yoda knows every improvement methodology in the book. Sadly like many experts his explanation of it doesn’t always  go down well with his disciples. Especially novices who often get bored and run off to try it their own way. Perhaps Yoda should read Demystifying Theory and its use in improvement. To be fair he has some great stories to tell though…

R2-D2 (Data)

R2D2As Deming said, “In god we trust, all others bring data“. The problem R2-D2 has is despite being full of information very few people are willing to listen, or even when they do, understand him. Whether a brilliant shot with a blaster, handy with a light sabre or a fantastic pilot if you don’t understand data you will never find the solution (map) to the really big problems (death stars)


Han Solo (The Charmer) 

Han SoloYou have read the latest improvement science literature. You have run through your model of improvement. Your PDSA templates are ready to go. And two weeks later you are still waiting for someone, anyone, to complete your new  proforma. Just as you are about to give up, Han Solo wonders into cantina, picks up a dog-eared form used by someone to doodle on and says, “this looks ok kid“. Suddenly, everyone, is using the form.

Finn (The convert)

FinnHaving  just read “Don’t just do another audit” Finn has had something of an epiphany. Jumping ship from his organisation’s normal way of doing things he finds things are a little tougher than he expected. Improvement is really hard but it’s a lot more beneficial in the long run…

Darth Vader (The Strangler)

Darth Vader

All good improvement projects meet a brick wall. Darth Vader is an especially tall and strong one. Able to silence any new innovation without even speaking Darth knows it is going to be his way.

Or his way. Or someone is going to suffer.



The above were the first 5 which I have subsequently added to. Always keen to hear more suggestions!

Rey (The learner)


Very rarely do health care professionals lack passion. However like Rey you sometimes don’t realise what your actual talents are. A small improvement project can be the first realisation that you really can make a difference and not just talk or dream about it. And even more like Rey learning is pretty exponential when it begins.

Thanks to Helen Bevan for suggesting Rey

C-3PO (The sceptic)

C-3POTo some people the status quo is simply the safest place to be and trying anything new is never going to be successful.

The odds of successfully surviving an attack on an Imperial Star Destroyer are approximately…

However sceptics are often predictable and can be inquisitive enough that with a bit of persistence you may find they join for the ride (only to find something else to complain about…)

Tie-Fighters and X-wings (Design) 

tie_fighter_x_wingThere is an inherent attraction to things that look good. Great visual design is always going to improve the chance of a successful project. From observations charts to surgical checklists you want something that looks streamlined and efficient.

Lando Calrissian (The inconsistent supporter)

Lando Calrissian

A improvement project is failing when you find unexpected support from someone who comes out the woodwork to provide additional help and resources when they are most needed. Then just as you think things are back on track they side with the stranglers and the project is stopped dead. Building a team is vital but understanding their allegiances even more important. Remember though not everyone who sides with the Empire does it for ever…       (thanks to  for suggesting Lando)

Boba Fett (the mercenary) 

Boba FettHard working, resourceful and clever but really only in it for the reputation or an award. Always delivers but only at a price. Watch out for short terms allegiances with Stranglers and inconsistent supporters

(Thanks to Ross Fisher for suggesting Boba Fett)


Princess Leia (the deliverer)

With a determined, pragmatic and no-nonense approach to getting the job done all improvement projects need a Leia. Equally at home dealing with high level hierarchy as she is with front line staff; Leia makes sure the right processes happen at the right time. Not afraid to express her opinions but always willing to recognise the skills of others.

Galen Erso – The Saboteur

When you’re putting together a new idea or initiative, it is helpful to have a team with you helping to troubleshoot problems and brainstorm ideas. Whilst heterogeneity in the team prevents a series of “yes-men” mindlessly agreeing, be wary of those taking part against their will.

The Saboteur may appear to want the same as everyone else, but if they don’t believe in the project they may deliberately overlook flaws, or even introduce some. This could result in your world changing plan being blown apart by troublesome rebels before it can ever make a difference. Conversely it may be your original plan was actually the wrong solution to the wrong problem and some would consider Galen a hero. Sometimes improvement and change is a matter of perspective. To paraphrase the saying, “ man’s freedom fighter, is another man’s terrorist.” (Thanks to James Nurse for suggesting Galen Erso)

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