Thanos and his universe-shattering OKR

What do iconic fictional villains have in common? They always lose in the end. In our Villains of OKR series we will analyze the mistakes in their strategy execution and learn from their failures through an OKRs lens.

I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. It’s frightening. Turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. ” – Thanos

Villain Profile

Name: Thanos, of Titan

Aliases: Dark Lord, Mad Titan, The Most Powerful Being in the Universe

Credentials: Last survivor of the planet Titan, Conqueror of all Infinity Stones

Personality: Omnipotent, Murderously Noble, Steadfast, Unrelenting

Mission

Restore balance to the Universe by preventing overpopulation.

OKR

Objective Eliminate half of all living things in the Universe 75%
Description Thanos is one of the most powerful beings in the Universe, but reaching his ultimate goal — preventing the Universe from going through the same extinction his home planet did — requires power beyond his grasp.
KR 1 Collect six all-powerful Infinity Stones 100%
KR 2 Take control of 3 armies: Chitauri, Sakaaran, and Outrider 100%
KR 3 Defeat all opposition on his path to finger snapping 100%
KR 4 Prevent the Avengers from time traveling to undo the past 0%
Task Force Eitri to create the Infinity Gauntlet Complete
Task Experience the loss of a loved one Complete
Task Snap fingers Complete
Task Eliminate threats that can compromise his plan Incomplete

Outcome

Thanos is the MCU’s major villain and arguably the most powerful being in the Universe. At the end of Avengers Infinity War , Thanos had achieved his first three Key Results. The entire film follows Thanos’s pursuit of the Infinity stones, the building of his army, and the Avengers’ valiant attempts to stop him.

With a snap of the Infinity Gauntlet in the forest of Wakanda, Thor’s Stormbreaker piercing in his chest, Thanos thought he achieved his Objective: Eliminate half of all living things in the Universe. He did, for five years, until the Avengers used a bit of Ant-Man magic and learned to time travel successfully (RIP Ironman), spending the entirety of Avengers Endgame undoing Thanos’s work.

At 75% progress, Thanos failed to reach his objective. The primary blocker? Even as an all-powerful, all-seeing Villain with the power of the Universe in his hand, Thanos was too short-sighted to follow up his execution of the Snap. He failed to anticipate disruption.

OKR Analysis

Considering there was only one way to effectively eliminate half of living things in the Universe, Thanos chose the most unambiguous objective we’ve seen with our Villains of OKRs. We’ll even go as far as to say that his determination and execution were unmatched: a personally motivated goal, a game plan so clear and transparent his opposition could recite it, and a willingness to sacrifice.

KR 1 Collect six all-powerful Infinity Stones 100%

Thanos’s vision was clearer than the gems he pursued: get the stones at all costs.

1. The Orb, AKA The Power Stone (Purple) : Destroy Xander, the planet The Guardians of the Galaxy left the stone on to be protected by the Nova Corps. Simple, kick ass.

2. The Tessaract, AKA The Space Stone (Blue) : Attack the Asgardian ship that Thor and Loki are on, wreck everything in sight, decimate The Hulk, and force Loki to trade The Tessaract for Thor’s life. A brutal way to start Infinity War .

3. The Aether, AKA The Reality Stone (Red) : Get to Knowwhere before The Guardians (which is actually somewhere), kill The Collector (who has the stone), trick The Guardians for giggles and capture Gamora, who knows where The Soul Stone is.

4. The Soul Stone (Orange) : Torture Gamora’s sister Nebula until The Soul Stone’s location is revealed (Vormir), take Gamora to Vormir, learn that The Soul Stone requires a sacrifice, then toss the only person he loves (Gamora) off the cliff. Crying in the club.

5. The Eye of Agamotto, AKA The Time Stone (Green) : Track the small hodgepodge of Avengers (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, The Guardians) to Titan (his former home), almost get ass kicked, gain leverage and threaten to kill Iron Man to get the stone from Dr. Strange, its protector.

6. The Mind Stone (Yellow) : Bring his army to Earth, throw down in the epic Battle of Wakanda, watch Wanda destroy The Mind Stone in Vision’s body, then use The Time Stone to reverse the destruction. Yank it from Vision’s brain, complete the gauntlet.

KR 2 Take control of 3 armies: Chitauri, Sakaaran, and Outrider 100%

This KR requires a summary from Thanos of the past. Thanos was initially outcast from his home planet of Titan for his beliefs in balancing the universe.

He fled his planet, became stranded, was rescued, then enslaved. He used his keen intellect to become trusted among the circle that captured him. Eventually, he took over THAT ship and after some bouncing around, landed on a planet with the Chitauri. The Chitauri needed an intelligent commander, Thanos led them for a while before genetically reengineering their race into the Outriders. The Outriders were a superior version of the Chitauri and more commandable.

Sakaarans help Thanos in his battle against The Avengers in Endgame .

KR 3 Defeat all opposition on his path to finger snapping 100%

We essentially covered this with the stones KR, but Thanos is claimed to be the most powerful MCU villain. After his manhandling of everyone in every film he appears in up to the finger snap, even Thor and his mighty Stormbreaker, this was an all-or-nothing KR for Thanos.

KR 4 Prevent the Avengers from time traveling to undo the past 0%

The Avengers were not Thanos’s kryptonite (sorry, wrong Universe). Thanos was his own kryptonite, as his overconfidence and inability to anticipate disruption (hello Ant-Man) was his undoing, as told by the failure of KR4.

Albeit, a superhero stuck in the atomic bits of the space-time continuum was mentally and physically impossible to account for, Ant-Man was not the problem. Thanos spent his lifetime destroying civilizations, decimating Gods, and delivering the punchiest one-liners in the MCU. You would think complacency was not in his character.

This happens more in business than we like to admit. To anyone in a startup, the mission seems to be making it to the mountain top. Achieving success. Experienced professionals understand that there’s always a larger mountain to scale. Thanos thought he could rest. He thought his work was over, and that he could watch the sun rise on a grateful universe.

His goal was to destroy one half of all living beings in existence. Without context, this seems insane. Even in context, it’s insane. He believed the universe needed someone to bring balance and he decided he would be that someone. He reasoned that what happened on his home world, Titan, would happen to everyone eventually. His home world was destroyed and he claimed the reason boiled down to an equation—there is a finite amount of resources, the population will continue to increase, and eventually all the resources would be used up.

Was Thanos moral? Was he insane? That’s for you to decide. But Thanos was a first-half player and his primary objective too shortsighted. Sure, balancing the Universe is a HEFTY sub-objective, but his truest objective was to prevent anyone or anything from undoing his actions. He had the experience, he understood the landscape and what was possible (time travel, altering the very fabric of reality).

His underestimation came with a huge price. What did it cost? Everything .

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