The Joker in The Dark Knight and his 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.

The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules. And tonight you’re going to break your one rule. – The Joker

Villain Profile

Name: Full name (unknown), The Joker (nickname)

Credentials: Rose to power in Gotham’s criminal underworld

Personality: nihilist, psychopathic, diabolical

Mission

To prove that anyone could be brought down to his level of madness.

OKR

Objective Plunge Gotham into an era of anarchy and chaos 62.5%
Description There is no such thing as chaos. A world without rules is the only sensible way to live.
KR 1 Manipulate the mob to help him create anarchy 100%
KR 2 Corrupt Harvey Dent 100%
KR 3 Motivate Batman to destroy his moral code and break his one rule 50%
KR 4 Force the prison and civilian boats to blow each other up 0%
Task Kill the Mayor To do
Task Rob a bank and take Mob owned cash Complete
Task Abduct Harvey Dent Complete
Task Abduct Rachel Dawes Complete

Outcome

The Joker achieved 62.5% progress. He did not achieve his objective. Why? Keep reading to find out.

OKR Analysis

A lot of people celebrate their birthdays with friends and family. They like surprise birthday parties and relish being the center of attention.

I am not that person. I prefer solitude.

Every year, I take time off during my birthday week. I use that time to check in with my goals, see if they’re still valid, and decide if I should stick with them or pursue something new.

One year, I decided to seek peace and learn techniques to help me be more present and mindful. So, I signed up for a 10-day silent meditation course to inaugurate another revolution around the sun. On my 35th birthday, I sat in silence somewhere in the forests of Finland. And have practiced mindfulness ever since.

Goal setting is an exercise in identifying something you want to accomplish. Setting good goals is hard.

HBR offers these reasons:

  • not knowing how to pursue the goal
  • insufficient willpower
  • choosing vague goals
  • encountering unanticipated external forces (e.g., illness, economic downturn)
  • setting unattainable goals

Sticking to our goals is even harder. According to this study, 77% of New Year’s resolvers stuck with their pledges for 1 week. Only 19% maintained their commitment for 2 years.

The Joker seems to be a part of that majority. Here’s why he couldn’t achieve his goal:

He had commitment issues

On the one hand, he wanted to plunge Gotham into anarchy. On the other, he refused to eliminate Batman, the one person who brought order and justice to the city.

You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? Huh? You won’t kill me, out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness… and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun! I think you and I are destined to do this forever. The Joker to Batman

Sure, we could imagine another person coming along to be the protector and guardian of Gotham city (Robin, maybe). However, in the Nolanverse, that person is Batman. Get rid of him and Gotham is yours.

The Joker couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to. Because he was conflicted.

He didn’t have a plan

Do I really look like a guy with a plan? Ya know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars, I don’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know? I just… do things. – The Joker to Harvey Dent

The Joker didn’t have a plan and he didn’t want one. He was satisfied just doing things. The problem with this approach is that you get stuff done, but none of it really amounts to anything.

Sadly, many working professionals probably spend most of their days similarly, working on a bunch of stuff, without any real aim. However, unlike the Joker, many probably do create plans. But, we’d argue that’s not enough to be successful.

The missing piece is a goal to bring everything together to provide meaning and purpose to what we spend so much of our lives doing.

Harvard did a study of what gives rise to a sense of meaning and purpose in life. They suggest meaning is experienced along three dimensions:

  • cognitive coherence (having a sense of the “meaning of life”)
  • affective significance (having a sense of “meaning in life” in one’s activities)
  • and motivational direction or purpose (having important goals and pursuits)

The power of the Enterprise is having teams of teams tackle big problems together in service of achieving grander things.

Imagine what it would look like for an entire organization to be united in purpose and for each individual to have affective significance. If that’s difficult to imagine, we’d suggest adopting OKRs. If you don’t know where to start, start here.

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