Where to Buy Management Lessons From Game of Thrones

This is the management textbook you never knew you wanted, but now you know you have to have it. The hardback has a scary academic price tag, but the paperback has a nice friendly RRP of £20/$30 or equivalent.

Amazon UK link here

Amazon US link here

Buy direct from publisher here

Unfortunately Bookshop.org doesn’t seem to have it, so if you want to buy direct from your local bookshop (and please do) you’ll have to communicate with them directly: the ISBN is 978 1 83910 528 9.

Not sure if you want to buy it or not? Here’s a sample chapter to whet your appetite.

Not that sort of appetite.

A Horror Story for Christmas

Just in time for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Luna Station Quarterly have put up an interview with me talking about my festive folk-horror short story “Misrule”. Find out my opinions on social justice, why I like happy endings, and how I was inspired by the movie The Blood on Satan’s Claw: https://lunastationquarterly.com/issue-051-author-interview-fiona-moore-and-misrule/

Space Precinct episode 5: “Snake”

The titular character is an alien with his own eyes (albeit under lizard contact lenses), who is a bomber and extortionist. Friends of mine who were paying attention at the time tell me that the Radio Times‘ coverage suggested he was going to be a recurring villain, and indeed he actually rated his own action figure. Both of these would turn out to be somewhat optimistic, but see below.

Clearly if they’re going to do an action figure of him, he won’t be just a one-off gimmick, right?

Anyway, Snake seems to be running two campaigns, one blowing up corporate executives who won’t pay his ransoms, and another placing bombs on a cargo ship belonging to the Talon Corporation. In an unexpected bit of anticorporate satire, the corporation refuses to pay up because it’s cheaper to lose the cargo and ship and kill the crew than to give in to the ransom demand, and Brogan and Haldane need to defuse the bombs before the timer counts down and blah blah.

Complicating this is the fact that Castle turns out to be a bomb disposal expert, only the last time she tangled with the Snake she got her squad killed, and that’s why she’s out here in Demeter City and more blah blah. Her former mentor turns up to help defeat the Snake, and we get to watch Castle’s highly predictable emotional journey as she regains the confidence to save the day. 

She also accepts a dinner invitation from Haldane, which might encourage any young men watching to believe that sexually harassing a woman for four episodes is a good way to win her over, except I’m pretty sure most people had stopped watching by this point.

Anyway, the surprise twist turns out to be that in fact the Snake isn’t running the second campaign, it’s actually, spoiler alert, Castle’s former mentor. It seems a bit unexpectedly cold that he’d be willing to murder two of his fellow officers, as well as the civilian crew of the freighter, but whatever.

In other developments, the DCPD’s cells continue to be the easiest ones in the galaxy to break out of; Brogan’s daughter’s annoying pet animatronic* apparently has the gift of prophecy; and the production team are scarily fond of making miniature buildings blow up.

*For those who aren’t actually watching along, this thing is a horribly fake-looking animatronic monkey-parrot creature that you just know someone thought would be a great idea and a hit with Merchandising, but actually none of the scriptwriters have the faintest idea what to do with it. Think N’Grath from Babylon 5, except cloyingly cute. Spoiler alert, the gift of prophecy thing basically goes nowhere and we see less and less of the creature as the series goes on.

Team Leadership in Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon: The full version!

Earlier this year, readers of this blog may recall, I had an article appear on The Conversation, tying in with Management Lessons from Game of Thrones, entitled “Six models of successful team leadership from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.” I mentioned at the time that I’d originally submitted a longer piece. Which, as today is my birthday (legit, it is!) I’m now making available here. Enjoy additional unhinged-Targaryen and charismatic-preacher content!

Eight Paths to Successful Team Leadership from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon

As anybody who’s ever been in a leadership position knows, no single style fits every situation! In my book Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros, I show how managers can learn from how various characters in Game of Thrones tackled and overcame their leadership and team management problems using strategies that fit their personalities and situations. If you’re struggling with a team management project, here are eight different approaches from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon that might help you find your perfect leadership style.

That time a thing I wrote was on the front page of a news website.
  1. 1. Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys is a a charismatic leader, someone who inspires others simply by the force of her personality and vision. However, she clearly finds the day-to-day business of management boring and is always looking for new challenges.

In a team management situation, you’d want Daenerys in charge whenever quick and drastic decisions need to be made, and when you need the team to be united and following a specific plan or vision. Bringing a new and controversial product to market on time, for instance, or carrying out a project with a certain element of risk.

2. Jon Snow

Jon Snow is a transformational leader: he excels in bringing out the best in the people around him and seeing organizations through time of change. Transformational leaders don’t generally seek out leadership, but are often just what a struggling organization needs to get back on track.

You’d want Jon in charge when a team is having trouble finding form or purpose, or meeting its established goals. Jon would be the sort of leader who can analyse what the team’s strengths and weaknesses are, can organise it to play to its strengths, and focus it away from the problem areas.

3. Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion is a transactional leader, someone who gains the trust of their supporters by making deals and compromises. While he may not be glamourous and exciting, people trust him always to get the job done.

Tyrion would excel in a situation of day-to-day team management, where there is either a project of indefinite duration, or where the projects renew cyclically. You could see Tyrion heading up an audit team or a tax consultancy: something that needs to be done consistently, reliably and well on a regular basis, with plenty of challenges but no surprises.

4. The High Sparrow

The High Sparrow is a contingent leader, someone who moves into a leadership role from an unexpected quarter at a critical time for the organisation. His idealism and dedication inspires loyalty but he can also find himself at the heart of conflict.

The High Sparrow wouldn’t be the first person you’d put in charge of a team, but he’d be the one who steps in when more conventional leadership fails. He usually comes in from the ranks of the team members and is able to use his knowledge of the team’s internal dynamics to refocus the team and give it a direction. However, you might not want him in charge for the long term, in case his personal agenda starts to replace the organisation’s.  

5. Sansa Stark

Because of her gender and her personality, Sansa’s talents are not immediately apparent. She struggles to be accepted in a leadership role, but, when she’s in charge, she’s focused and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. She takes a long view of success and it generally pays off.

Sansa is the person you want in charge of a team working on a project with long-term objectives. She’s also very good at bringing together people with very different interests and getting them to work together over a period of time, and also at taking difficult decisions and sticking by them. The biggest problem you might have with Sansa is that, if you underestimate her, you might lose her to the competition!

7. Daemon Targaryen

Like his distant relative Daenerys, Daemon is a charismatic leader. He clearly inspires the loyalty of the Gold Cloaks and attracts supporters among his extended family. Daemon is also, however, a toxic leader, thinking little of murder and brutality as ways of achieving his ends.

Strangely, sometimes this kind of leadership can have good results! Daemon clearly achieves a number of victories simply through not caring about what other people think, or through treating other people as assets or obstacles without caring about them as human beings. However, this means that Damon is also not somebody you want in charge for a long period of time. He may be able to deliver necessary shock treatment, but he shouldn’t be allowed to keep on delivering it.

8. Corlys Velaryon

Corlys Velaryon is a pragmatic leader. He does what it takes to get the job done, even when this means making questionable alliances or difficult compromises. At times when others are concerned about short-term pride and prestige, he is concerned about the longer term consequences.

Corlys clearly excels in any situation where there is the opportunity to develop a strategy and see it through, and one where difficult, even painful, decisions might need to be made. He can weigh up costs and benefits rationally, and can choose the most appropriate path, even if it involves difficult alliances or accepting the second best option, with a view to pursuing strategic success over a more extended period. 

8. Rhaenyra Targaryen

Rhaenyra provides a good example of what we call “servant leadership”: a leader who puts the needs of the team first and encourages both her followers and her organisation to grow and develops. She accepts that everything she does has to be what’s best for the throne and for her House, and tries to find ways of doing so that make herself and the people around her happy.

Rhaenyra is the sort of person you’d want in charge of any team that needs to develop to meet new challenges, and to stay together while doing so. It’s deeply ironic that she faces so many people opposing her elevation to Queen of Westeros, as she might actually be the most suitable person to lead the country on to greater successes.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros is a management textbook with a difference. I examine how characters, organisations and situations in a fictional television series about a fantasy world have, perhaps surprising, parallels to people, organisations and situations in our own world, and how we can learn valuable lessons for our daily working lives from these stories. As well as leadership, the book discusses human resource management, organisation theory, strategy, mergers and acquisitions—and how to manage all of these without resorting to dragonfire! 

Space Precinct, episode 4: “Flash”

After a decent episode last time, we’re now back to business as usual. Indeed, worse than usual. 

There’s a new drug on the streets in Demeter City: Flash. As we are painstakingly told at least twice (even though you’d think the cops would already know this), Flash gives its users massive confidence before causing them to burn up in, well, a flash, hence the name. It turns out it was developed by a legit pharmaceutical company, but never put on the market due to the above-mentioned toxic side effect.

And from there things just get more and more ludicrous. The person responsible for leaking it out to the streets is the CEO of the legit pharmaceutical company, who is also holding the chemist who developed it hostage and forcing her to develop a version without the side effect. Uh, why would he need to do either? Surely 1) he’s making enough money without needing to live-action-roleplay Breaking Bad, and 2) she would be more than happy to develop a version of the drug that does what it’s supposed to do? 

Also, four trained police officers, after stun-gunning the villain’s accomplice, simply walk away from the scene without cuffing her and taking her into custody, and they deserve everything they get from that.

The B plot this episode is that Brogan has to Take His Daughter To Work, and of course hijinks ensue. I wonder if this episode might not be one of the reasons American TV networks thought it was a kids show. We learn that Mrs Brogan (possibly even… Doctor Brogan?) works at a hospital, which makes her naïveté about what her husband does on the job rather puzzling.

“So you want to be a police officer, kid? First thing you’ve got to learn is how to put up with the constant tedious sexual harassment from Haldane.”

We also learn that Haldane is a country and western fan (it’s 1994 and there’s a craze on), and that no two actors can agree on how to pronounce his name. Also, referring to another 1994 craze, there’s a TV show called Demeter City Blue, clearly based on NYPD Blue.

Also for some reason you can really see the joins in the latex on the Creon masks this episode. Or maybe you could before, and I’m only noticing it now.

Space Precinct episode 3: “Enforcer”

Stop the press: This is a good episode. Repeat: THIS IS A GOOD EPISODE.

Interestingly, it’s because it focuses on the alien characters, and the (wooden) humans largely take a back seat.

There’s a vigilante on Skull Street, the dodgy neighbourhood where police chief Podly comes from. This vigilante is a Tarn who apparently has the ability to cause spontaneous heart attacks. But once he’s killed off the local gang members, he starts demanding protection money. And it turns out his powers actually come from a little alien girl he’s taken under his wing, convincing her that he’ll take her to her lost parents… as soon as they do this next murder… and the next one… and the next one… but don’t worry, dear, they’re all bad guys who deserve it…

And what we get is basically a story about manipulation, emotional abuse, grooming, and complex, stupid people.

E.g., we learn that police chief Podly was encouraged out of the ghetto and into his police job by an older Creon named Skefen. And when Podly goes back to talk to Skefen to find out what’s happening, the latter rails at him, accusing him of leaving his people behind. Maybe it’s bad characterisation? Or maybe it’s a reflection of the fact that people, even ones with fish eyes and no noses, are complicated? Maybe I’m being charitable but I’m inclined to the latter.

Spot the difference.

Even Brogan actually turns out decently characterised this week, as he and his family foster the alien girl and try to convince her that the whole world isn’t out to use her. And the alien girl is a makeup job without googly eyes, which helps.

Okay, we’ve still got the obligatory scene where Haldane sexually harasses Castle and I just want to throw things at the screen. And the dialogue is still stilted, and the acting still wooden, and the Brogan family pet looks like a Disneyworld animatronic. But on the whole– recommended!

Space Precinct episode 2: “Protect And Survive”

This is a painfully literal title, since the main plot is Brogan and Haldane having to protect an alien businessman who witnessed the murder of a police informant (Burt Kwouk, giving a pop-eyed pidgin-English performance that should make all but the most hardened racists cringe), and who is being stalked by assassins who don’t want him to survive to the trial date. Geddit? Generic-sounding but painfully literal titles will turn out to be something of a pattern for Space Precinct.

The person who murdered the police informant is wanted for smuggling illegal immigrants and spreading the space covid (really) and yet the trial seems to hinge entirely on the murder. It feels rather like the writer forgot about the earlier crimes by the time he’d got to the last fifteen minutes.

Elsewhere, Brogan’s family are angry at him and it’s no surprise, since he seems unable to communicate the slightest thing. E.g., would it kill him to say to his wife “I’m not refusing to eat dinner because your cooking is bad, it’s just that by coincidence I’ve spent the afternoon chasing a suspect through a slaughterhouse full of the very alien creatures you’ve just served to me as cutlets”? Or provide an actual reason to his son for why he won’t let him go downtown bar vaguely growling about how it’s bad down there? It doesn’t seem like it would be breaking too much confidentiality to explain “I’ll be away for a few days because I’m protecting a witness” rather than just vaguely saying he has to work late? Yes, Brogan, your wife doesn’t understand you, because you’re just not giving her the information.

B plots this week also include a comedy piece where various secondary characters play an online game to try to win tickets to a sportsball match and alien psychic police officer Tookie coming down with the space covid, though both of these actually work in that they provide a reason why the villain is able to learn where they’re hiding the witness (Castle asks Orrin and Romek how she can contact Brogan and tell him Tookie’s come round, and the Creons are so busy with their game that, rather than follow protocol, they just tell her which hotel they’re keeping the witness at).

Elsewhere, the alien-witness plot leads to a lot of heavy-handed comedy racism which seems a little inexplicable. Last week, Brogan and Haldane were living in a multi-species society so integrated that they didn’t blink at maggots as a pizza topping, and yet this week they find prehensile tongues and deep-fried mice beyond the pale.

Come on, Brogan, show a little sensitivity.

Castle has two pieces of characterisation: 1) she doesn’t like it when Haldane sexually harasses her and 2) she really, really loves her partner Tookie and is very worried for her once she gets sick. The lesbian police officer was a solid trope by the mid-nineties (I think the earliest I’ve spotted it was in the late 1970s police procedural Strangers, though they generally pretended she was straight so as not to upset Mary Whitehouse), so it wouldn’t be too surprising if there was a subtext here. But there isn’t.

Finally, the acting is so stilted and wooden that I’m wondering if this isn’t secretly another Anderson puppet series on the quiet.

Space Precinct episode 1: “Double Duty”

Right from the start, it’s obvious this series is really just a standard police-department drama, complete with all the cliches, albeit slightly transposed into the far future of, erm, 2040 (or maybe not; it’s unclear from the title sequence if that’s the year or just Brogan’s badge number. Considering that Gerry Anderson’s earlier series gave us an alien invasion by 1980 and a functioning moonbase by 1999, however, a near-future date is on brand).

Let’s just say he’s transferred to a new precinct.

The characters are all police-series cliches. We have our hero cop, Brogan, transferred in from New York to Demeter City with a trailing wife and kids struggling to adjust and make friends; our wise-cracking, womanising young smartarse cop, Haldane; our outwardly-cold but inwardly-caring woman cop, Castle. The city is multi-species, with humans rubbing shoulders with different sorts of aliens. Someone is apparently knocking off all the drug dealers of Demeter City, with a B-plot about a bag lady who turns up claiming to be alien royalty. In and of itself, that’s not terrible; so far, so NYPD Blue.

As well as the nice model work, there’s a teensy bit of CGI that’s not unconvincing.

Less good points: everything about it is boringly predictable. I’d guessed the murderer straight away (though admittedly I’ve also seen Space: 1999, which helped). Brogan suspects his teenage son is doing drugs with a dodgy friend… only of course it turns out, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine style, that it’s all perfectly innocent. The bag lady? Spoilers, she is alien royalty.

Much more seriously, we never actually learn what the murderer’s motivation is. And nobody seems to question it because, well, drug dealers are bad so it’s only natural someone would want to kill them. But I’d expect a little more: ex-junkie? Parent/sibling/child died of drug overdose? Home planet devastated due to drug extraction?

There’s a small role for a pizza delivery man, played by some British kid called Idris Elba. I wonder what happened to him? I should look him up on IMDB.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones contributes to The Conversation

I’ve got an article on The Conversation, promoting Management Lessons from Game of Thrones and expanding it with a little House of the Dragon content! Please read and share. 

The original article was about one-third again as long– and it may well be appearing on this blog in future months. Stay tuned!

https://theconversation.com/six-models-of-successful-team-leadership-from-game-of-thrones-and-house-of-the-dragon-192906

Space Precinct: An Introduction and an Apology (sorrynotsorry)

Saddle up, buckaroos: I’m about to watch Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct, so you don’t have to!

First off, a shoutout to Alison Scott, who suggested I do this. She has many projects, but check out her most recent, the Octothorpe podcast for science fiction fans, at the link. It turns out Space Precinct is also coming out this autumn on BritBox, so those of you who do want to watch-along, can do so, at least for as long as you have the stamina.

Space Precinct was a live-action series by the co-creator of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space: 1999 and other 1960s and 1970s series I love shamelessly. While his puppet series are fairly solid, Anderson’s record on the live-action front is always patchy: UFO and Space: 1999 both have moments of sheer brilliance, and moments of sheer WTF, and not in a good way. Space Precinct, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), is almost entirely on the latter end of the spectrum.

In some ways it’s a victim of bad timing: coming out in 1994 meant that it just preceded the space opera boom of the late 1990s (Star Trek: Deep Space 9/Voyager, Babylon 5, Andromeda, Farscape, Firefly). But it’s got a lot more wrong with it than just that.

I would argue that throughout, its biggest problem is too much ambition. The plots are incredibly complex, and usually fall flat as a result. Most of the aliens have got complex full- or partial-head masks with animatronic eyes, which must have been very difficult to do (they blink! They roll!), but make them look weirdly muppet-like and don’t let much of the actor’s personality come through. There’s a tragic logic visible here: you can see the effects team thinking “everyone laughs at Star Trek because of the Cornish-pasty-headed aliens, let’s show them how it’s really done”, and yet Michael Dorn and/or Nana Visitor with a bit of crinkly latex are way more convincing.

About the only complex thing that consistently works is the models. They’re beautiful and brilliantly done, and there’s a lot of compositing that mixes models and live action work near-seamlessly. The effects team includes some big names, including Neill Gorton, who would go on to dominate the look of Davies and Moffat-era Doctor Who.

Also a shoutout to the alien makeup team. You can’t mistake any given Creon (or Tarn) for any other Creon (or Tarn). While they must have four or five masks they’re re-using in rotation, you can only tell if, like me, you’ve binge-watched the series in quick succession, suggesting the makeup teams are working overtime making each alien character look distinctive.

On to the setup! Our hero, Patrick Brogan, is a New York cop transplanted to the 89th Precinct of outer space settlement of Demeter City. The population is mixed-species, but dominated by humans and two particular alien species: Creons, who look sort of like bulbous-eyed fish, and Tarn, who are teal-skinned space-elves with a third eye that gives them telepathic and telekinetic powers. There seems to be some decent attempts at worldbuilding: e.g. the Tarns all have human names but the Creons all have names like Podly and Romek (possibly Tarn names aren’t pronounceable by anyone else) and the Tarn have a religion which requires household shrines. Everyone wears human-spec clothing, though everyone also seems to eat everyone else’s cuisine (which, having lived and worked in a few postcolonial places, does ring true).

Space Precinct is a Gerry Anderson series so that means merch. And it’s 1994 so merch means POGs. Action figures and model vehicles are also available.

Supporting human characters include Haldane, a wise-cracking smart-arsed young officer whose personality is entirely built around sexually harassing Castle, a female officer whose personality is entirely built around being female. Among the aliens, we have Took, or “Tookie,” a female Tarn officer who is best friends with Castle and in any other cop series would have a massive lesbian subtext, but it’s hard to do that with a googly-eyed muppet. There’s also Fredo, the Other Tarn Officer; Chief Podly, a Creon with an inexplicable Irish accent; and Orrin and Romek, two Creon officers who mostly exist to do the comic relief subplots. Minor recurring characters include Brogan’s wife and kids, who turn up almost every episode regardless of whether or not it’s relevant to the story; and, halfway through the series, someone in the Anderson operation apparently notices that the entire human regular cast and almost all of the human one-off cast is White, meaning the division acquires a computer expert, Carson, who happens to be Black. Finally, there’s Slo-Mo, the division’s robot, who reminds me of nothing so much as the awful “comedy Black sidekick” trope one gets in 1940s films, except the 1940s comedy Black sidekicks have more agency.

With all of that in mind, it’s time to enter… the Space Precinct!

Tiny Travelling Tales: A Note on the Summer of Covid

Holiday and conference season are done, so it’s time to take stock of how things went in a year when the press have been full of stories of travel nightmares.

In total I made three round trips by plane this summer, to Miami, Tunis and Chicago (for those new to this blog, between 3 and 5 trips a year is about normal for me, so, despite my saying I would cut back after covid, this clearly is not happening).

Of those, the most disrupted was the outbound trip to Tunis, with the outbound trip to Miami running it second. Both of them were going through Heathrow, which I suspect isn’t a coincidence (third place is the inbound trip from Tunis, but the disruption was entirely down to me lacking knowledge of local culture, of which more later).

The problem on the Miami trip was that the flight was delayed for four hours. Which initially didn’t bother me much, as I didn’t have any real tourism plans for Miami (it was a conference) so I might as well write papers in the airport lounge as anywhere. As the delay crept up to the four-hour mark, though, I realised that this would take me past the point where the hotel would hold my booking, so wound up making a series of panicked phone calls literally on the runway and terrified that any minute a flight attendant would come and tell me to put my phone away (they didn’t, and I’d like to shoutout to Yotel for holding my booking till midnight).

The outbound trip to Tunisia involved a two-hour-long queue for the security queue at Heathrow. This was at a point where defenders of the travel industry were blaming delays on large numbers of people going on post-pandemic holidays. However, when I got to the front of the line another narrative became obvious: they had too few staff to run the X-ray machine and search the bags, so they would run a few bags through the X-ray, search anything that needed searching, and so on. The second leg of the trip, through Rome, was trouble-free and fast, and clearly the Italians were not having as much trouble handling the numbers of people, large or otherwise.

The delay coming back from Tunisia? It was down to two things. First, that most of the people in the passport queue were doing it in large groups, stationing one member of each group in the queue, and then, when someone got to the front, the rest of the group would join them, meaning a very small queue would suddenly get very large very quickly. And second, that when I got to the front of the line the passport checker sent me to the back for not filling out my customs form. Available from a very small box on the other side of the room, with no signage to indicate what they were or that one had to fill them out. So as I said– lack of knowledge of local culture.