The final season of "Game of Thrones" is quickly approaching, and it’s best we prepare our battle cries and learn the strategies of our rivals. Or at least use this time to discover the different types of planning involved when waging war for not only the Iron Throne but also against the White Walkers!
Within the past seven seasons (and five books) we have witnessed the cunning, calculated, and downright chilling strategies these families have implemented to claim/reclaim the Iron Throne. Maybe it’s because we work at a planning company, or maybe it’s because we’re just so excited for the new season to start, but the Community team decided it’s time to take a look at how these families have planned their way to the Iron Throne.
Of course, no two families are alike in this series, so in this post, we’ll be looking at four different planning styles and how those planning styles match up with four of the main houses from “Game of Thrones.” The four planning styles we’ll be applying to Game of Thrones are Domain and Direction, Objective-Oriented, Task-Oriented, and Present Oriented.
Let the games begin.
Domain and Direction planners are clear about two things: where they currently are and where they need to go. These types of planners believe the significant steps will fall into place as they start moving in the direction of their goal.
The Targaryens (at this point Daenerys’ being the sole survivor) are a great example of Domain and Direction planners. Daenerys’ older brother Viserys had one goal: to rule the Seven Kingdoms. He did not care what he had to do (or who he had to hurt) to get there. When Viserys is removed from the game (so to speak), Daenerys is finally able to step into her own planning shoes and take on her family’s goal.
“I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will!" ~Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones, HBO, 2017
While Daenerys’ dragons may be terrifying and her “join or die” ultimatums don’t seem like the best way to make friends, no one can argue that her strategic thought process has remained consistent throughout every season. For instance, to combat her lack of battle experience, Daenerys aligns herself with fighters and leaders who have fought in previous wars. Though she lacks strategic insight into battles, she leads with conviction and inspires loyalty in those who follow her.
She embodies her goal and by using the loyalty and trust from her followers can move towards it even though countless obstacles (and assassins) have been thrown her way. As we head into the next season, we’ll be taken on a new journey with Daenerys as she has pivoted her original goal and aligned with Jon Snow to ensure there will be Seven Kingdoms to lead after the long winter. Do you think Daenerys’ goal will change as the White Walker battle moves forward?
Objectives-oriented planners are the most results-driven of planners, always keeping the end goal in mind as they plan and scheme their way to reach their initiative.
“Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens. ~Tywin Lannister, Game of Thrones, HBO, 2011
As the deserved and rightful occupants of the Iron Throne, House Lannister has had to overcome a number of challenges in order to climb its way to the top. In order to get to this point, the Lannisters' planning style consisted of setting clear objectives and a path to success (almost always success for them alone) in achieving them.
This was evident in the very first episode of Game of Thrones as siblings Cersei and Jaime attempted to murder Bran Stark after he viewed a sensitive moment between the two. From this point, every single member of the family has set one objective after another in order to consolidate its power, from wiping out rival houses, to holding rivals hostage, to waging war against the most influential religious institution in the land.
All of these actions were the result of careful planning based on key objectives. House Lannister is widely credit as the most cunning and strategic of all the houses, and by the end of season 7, both sides of the Lannister family have set out their final objectives: Tyrion and Jaime to rescue the North and Cersei to mop up the winner of whoever manages to survive the battle. Though their goals vary in terms of altruism or ambition, there’s no doubt that both sides of the Lannister coin have set forth clear end results to strive toward.
Task-oriented planners may be the clearest and most concise planners of the group. This type of planning uses a single task or a basic list of functions to outline their goal(s).
As task-oriented planners, the Night’s Watch is very clear about the mission they plan to accomplish:
“I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come." Night's Watch Oath, Game of Thrones, HBO, 2011
From the second half of the Night’s Watch oath, it’s easy to see their primary task: protect the wall (which protects the Seven Kingdoms) at all costs. Whether it’s an attack by the Wildlings beyond the wall, or even worse, an invasion by the White Walkers, the Night’s Watch’s goal remains the same. In the event that the primary task is completed (or altered), the task-oriented Night’s Watch will adapt and assign themselves the next task to focus on as their primary to-do. In the later seasons of the “Game of Thrones,” the subject of the task changes as the Night’s Watch and Wildlings unite to defend the wall against the White Walkers. Though the threat changes, the goal remains the same: Protect the wall.
The Night’s Watch is initially successful until the primary task of defending the wall in the TV series becomes an impossible to-do as Daenerys Targaryen’s resurrected dragon, Viserion, destroys the wall in the season 7 finale.
Defeated and on the run, the Night’s Watch must act fast in the final season to establish a new task that hopefully aids in the looming battles against the ominous White Walkers.
Present-oriented planners respond to what is happening in the moment. These are the people you want to have around you when the unexpected happens, when emergencies arise, and when your perfectly-thought-out long-range plan tanks.
“I'm sure cutting off heads is very satisfying, but that's not the way you get people to work together." ~Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones, HBO, 2017
You would think a family whose house motto is so future-focused (“Winter Is Coming”) wouldn’t embody present-oriented planning, but the Starks continue to survive by adapting. They are forced to live day-to-day, continuously readjusting their plans in response to a world that seems out to get them. Where other Westeros houses have collapsed and been decimated, the Starks (even when dispersed far and wide, without home or land to call their own) have continued to endure.
This may be in part because, in contrast to other families, the Starks value each other over their ambitions. As Lord Eddard Stark once told his daughter Arya, “In the winter, we must protect ourselves, look after one another."
While the Starks may lack the cunning of the Lannisters and their complicated plans or the dedication of the Night’s Watch and their single-minded goals, the Starks respond to their circumstances in a way that reflects their values and family loyalty. Whether in pursuit of personal vengeance, a prophetic destiny, a kingship, or freedom from a forced marriage, we see the Starks adjusting to the moment to survive despite the hand that fate has dealt them. Time and again, we see them set aside a current course of action when the opportunity to reunite with a family member presents itself.
The success of this planning style is demonstrated clearly as the Stark siblings reunite at Winterfell after overcoming nearly impossible odds. Though not without losses or sacrifices, their agility has allowed them to make the best of any situation. Will it be enough to see them through to the end?
Which Game of Thrones house would you fit into best? Do you think we missed a planning style or house? If so, share your Game of Thrones planning theories in the comments below.