Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Warped Factor

One of the advantages of being a captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it. ~ James Tiberius Kirk, stardate 2715.2

Unless you've been living under a rock, don't have a television, or are unaware of the advent of moving pictures, you've probably heard that there's a new Star Trek movie. I've seen the previews, and I do believe that there are more explosions in the preview than occurred in all of the original series (TOS) and all six TOS films. But, that's what sells these days, so it'll probably be a huge hit.

As is normally the case when there's a new blockbuster out, the various media outlets have all sorts of stories that, while having little or nothing to do with starships or even explosions, manage to have a Star Trek tie-in. The Montgomery Advertiser had a lulu.

NOTE: The Advertiser web site has a shortened form of this story. I'm going to talk about the version that appeared in the print version on May 5, 2009. See? Not everything is on the web. Besides, it's a Associated Press story, and they've been weird about linking to their material.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the article. Seems someone decided that one could apply the James T. Kirk management style to the business environment. He provides several cases, starting with Kirk's Dilemma, followed by Your Dilemma (which doesn't seem to have much to do with Kirk's problem), and finally, What You Can Do (which has practically nothing to do with Kirk's solution). F'r Instance:

Kirk and the gang from the Enterprise have arrived in a planetary system that has two planets at war. Being, in their mind, ultra-civilized, they don't actually throw bombs or anything at each other. No, they run computer simulations, which compute casualties. Then, people who correspond to those casualties happily march into a disintegrator. Kirk, faced with his crew being casualties, deals with the situation by destroying one planet's computer, so they'll actually have to throw bombs and blow stuff and people up in person. Naturally, the planets decide negotiating isn't such a bad thing.

Your dilemma, on the other hand, doesn't involve anyone being disintegrated. It seems in these difficult times, employees can't understand that they'll have to change to survive. What You Can Do is to "Gather your staff and talk straight."

Now, anyone who ever saw that show knows that Kirk tried talking to these people and only received the answer, "Disintegrator chamber at 2 PM, Captain. Please be prompt." His solution was to break the computer. Kirk was always breaking computers, usually using some ridiculous paradox to get the machine into an infinite loop so it would blow up. Fortunately, Kirk always dealt with really dumb computers.

It is unlikely, though, that your company's management is going to think kindly on your staff running over to the IT center and blowing up the mainframe. Mind you, a "professor of management" is quoted as saying (and this is straight from the story), "In a business situation, what Kirk did would have been a first step." Talk about the first step being a doozy.

Another example involves one of the best TOS shows, involving the planet destroyer. In this one, William Windom plays a captain who has gotten the snot kicked out of him by some sort of infernal machine that destorys entire planets, including the one he beamed his crew onto. Naturally, he's depressed about this. Kirk and the gang happen on the scene and get involved in trying to fix Windom's nearly wrecked ship. Windom, left on the Enterprise, takes command and intends to fix that planet destroyer once and for all. Kirk tells him in no uncertain terms that he's not going to do that and orders Spock put in command. According to the article, this is an example of constructive insubordination.

Well, it would be insubordination if Windom actually outranked Kirk, which he doesn't (the captain of a ship outranks everyone on his ship, including bigger brass). But, what the heck, they could have chosen any one of a dozen episodes where ol' Jimbo cussed out some superior or another. At any rate, your dilemma is that your boss has come up with a really stupid idea that is going to be "disastrous" to you, the department, and your company. That, brother, is one really dumb idea.

Your solution to this is to anticipate that this will occur, which Kirk certainly doesn't do in this case. How often exactly do you run across a monstrous machine from another galaxy that eats planets? At any rate, in anticipation of your boss losing his mind and going all Captain Ahab, you become his best buddy, always helping him out, and being a general brown nose. Then, when the really, really dumb idea surfaces, you basically turn on him. Another "expert" quoted offers this advise: "Explain: 'We've always done it this way because...' "

That particular argument will earn you a big negative in the "adapts to change" section of your review (assuming the company has survived the really, really dumb idea), and all it'll do is get your boss' back up. Following up on this suicidal advice, it is suggested that your ultimate solution might just be to find another job.

Yup, that's just how Kirk would have handled it.

So, the James T. Kirk management style would involve blowing up computers, insubordination, quitting ... oh, and communicating like crazy. Especially with the "weird guy with the facial tic" (Kirk's dilemma was landing on the planet modeled after gangster society in the 1920's).

Of course, this sort of management training would explain the mess GM, Ford, and Chrysler have got themselves into. Having worked for an automotive supplier, it would make sense that would be channelling Jim Kirk.

On one of his really, really dumb days.

No comments:

Post a Comment