The episode starts with Archer, T’Pol and Tucker arriving at a small colony looking to trade for deuterium. Initial negotiations with the colony leader, Tessic, don’t go great but, eventually, a deal is worked out where Enterprise will get 200 liters of deuterium in exchange for a few power cells and some medical supplies. The deal hinges on the Enterprise helping the colony repair two pumps that have gone offline and everything has to be done within two days.
There are a few red flags that pop up to let us know something isn’t right with the colony. Lo and behold, a small band of Klingons show up and start bullying the settlers. Seeing the confrontation, Archer and Trip offer to help the settlers fight, they pull together a plan and get a bit of training in for the settlers. Ultimately, the colonists stand up to the Klingon marauders and send them away. The grateful colonists give the Enterprise 2,000 liters of deuterium as a show of gratitude.
This isn’t a particularly original episode, in fact the plot is remarkably similar to The Magnificent Seven which closely followed the plot of The Seven Samurai. However, the plot does allow for Archer to grow and show off some great management skills. He does surprisingly well in three different areas: negotiating, innovative thinking and skill-building.
The initial negotiations between Archer and Tessic are a bit strained in the beginning. Tessic starts by claiming they have nothing to trade because two of their pumps aren’t working. T’pol calls their bluff as the Enterprise scanned the colony before arrival and knows they are sitting on a large inventory. When the settlers show offense at being scanned, Archer offers an apology (good for him!! It’s a new skill for Archer here).
Archer is pretty firm throughout the negotiations. He was likely trying to establish a power position. This is a common tactic that a lot of people use in negotiations so he’s not far off track. By apologizing for the scans, he takes ownership of a misstep. Trip offers to help repair the pumps that have gone offline. Archer uses this opportunity to get the deuterium he needs while giving the settlers something they need.
At this point, we are seeing a very classic win-win scenario. We’ve all seen this type of deal before, entire books have been written about the win-win being a great deal for both sides. Did either side really get what they wanted or needed though? The fundamental flaw with this compromise approach to negotiating is that neither side really gets what they really want. Both sides have to give up something and it is actually more of a middle ground between winning and losing while still having a deal. Instead of “win-win”, it looks more like “not lose-not lose”.
We talked about negotiations in the “Homestead” (Star Trek: Voyager, Season 7, Episode 23) episode when Neelix was working to help the Talaxian colony. The negotiations in this episode took on the “win-win-win” approach. Generally speaking, the win-win-win scenario is where the two sides negotiating get a win but so does a greater cause. This greater cause may be something that benefits a community as whole or maybe the environment, something beyond just the primary parties.
The arrival of the Klingon marauders creates the opportunity for Archer to work out a win-win-win solution. When the Enterprise crew helps the settlers plan and execute the confrontation with the Klingons, the greater cause is kicking the Klingons off their planet and regaining the colony’s independence. Archer and the rest of the crew don’t look at this opportunity as a way to get more from the negotiation but they solve a root problem, a much greater good.
Another interesting thing happens during the negotiations that is worth noting, Archer gets to take a gemba walk. At one point, the settlers are saying the labor necessary to refine deuterium is significant and Archer owns his ignorance and asks to see how it all works. He doesn’t understand something so he takes the opportunity to go look at it instead of just having it explained to him.
Essentially, Archer went on a gemba walk, which is going to the place the work is being done to observe and to learn. That is a completely oversimplified way to look at a gemba walk but, in terms of management, this is an example of when it can come into play during a negotiation. Going and seeing how a product or process works can give you an entirely different perspective that changes your negotiating position.
If you have an opportunity to invest in a business or product you would start by doing your due diligence. You’d read through the business plan, you’d look over the financials but you wouldn’t be ready to write a check until you see the business firsthand. Depending on the business, you would want to somehow experience the concept, use the product, or observe the manufacturing. Seeing how it works gives you knowledge, which gives you leverage.
Innovation has become a buzzword, probably because almost nobody actually does it. It looks really progressive to have innovation show up on your corporate values poster, but how often do you really see somebody do anything innovative?
Nobody likes a bully and Archer is pretty angry that the Kingons are extorting this small colony. Tessic explains that they had tried fighting the Klingons before, lost several members of their small colony and have decided to just accept the situation. Tessic just wants the Enterprise to repair the pumps and take their deuterium and leave.
Archer can’t let it go, he has to do something about these bullies. He and T’Pol discuss some options. Starfleet directives mean they can’t just blow up the Klingon ship and anything short of that seems like it will make the situation worse. They have to find a more diplomatic solution and this is where Archer brings out some really innovative thinking.
Archer’s plan is to trick the Klingons into standing in the middle of the deuterium field by moving the settlement. You want to talk about innovation, let's talk about moving a settlement. It’s brilliant, just imagine what you could accomplish if you were to “move the settlement”. What could you achieve by changing the proverbial layout? What could look different? Archer came up with a very “outside the box” and innovative plan.
Part of Archer’s innovative plan involves the settlers fighting back against the Klingons. To do this, the settlers needed to improve on their fighting skills. They find a group of settlers with some basic skills and send them up to the Enterprise for additional training. Archer even mentions the “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime” quote to inspire Tessic.
Although the Enterprise could have easily taken care of the Klingons, that would have only solved the immediate problem. Building up the settlers skills by providing them training means they will be able to fend for themselves even after the Enterprise leaves.
How often do you step in to handle a problem instead of taking the time to teach others how to handle it? Let’s say that you are an absolute beast when it comes to writing SQL queries and someone needs data. You write that query up and tears come to the eyes of your co-workers from the flawless beauty of your work. In this scenario let's just say it's a team of five query writers and you are the leader. Your team is good, totally competent, but you, you're an artist. Imagine developing those five co-workers into artists too. Now your organization has six people capable of writing those tear worthy queries.
Another real-life example, my organization is about to implement a new piece of software that will change almost everything about how we do our core functions. I have confidence in my project team and in the developers but what I'm focused on is the people side of change management. I have oversight of the entire operation, yet I generally don't get involved in day-to-day operations, my amazing management teams do that.
I am a certified change management specialist and I absolutely love leading people through the various phases of change. In this case, as the team leader, that's not my job. My job is to guide the person who is responsible for preparing people for the change. In this case, that person has extensive project management experience but they have never led a change initiative before. As desperate as I want to take the reins, I'm letting them do it.
I'm not leaving them on their own to sink or swim, I did an initial training of the kickoff for them. We meet regularly and I attend some of their meetings to listen and observe how the project is proceeding. I’ll admit, it is killing me a little to not jump in and take over but I know that when we've gotten through this project I'll have another experienced change leader on my team. Now, when the next initiative comes around (they always do), there will be another leader who will be able to develop someone else. It's not about carving out a little niche for yourself, it's about developing your teams so that any of you can do amazing things when the opportunities arrive.
Archer takes this approach in training the settlers to defend themselves. He leverages the expertise of his whole crew, especially Malcom Reed, to teach as much as they can to the colonists. They give them the skills to keep everyone safe during the battle but, more importantly, to give them the confidence to stand up to the Klingons. Archer also sends Tessic out to confront the Klingons which gives Tessic the confidence to continue providing protection if another group of bullies come along.
Some of the Enterprise crew took care of training the settlers but Archer had a direct hand in helping Tessic develop his leadership skills. Tessic starts out feeling pretty adamant that none of this mess with the Klingons is any of Archer’s business. Tessic sees himself as the colony’s protector and believes the settlers depend on him to protect them.
This is where Archer uses the “give a man a fish…” speech and that is exactly what Tessic needs to hear. Archer has a game plan, he’s done his research, and when he talks to Tessic he listens to him. Archer adapts his messaging to match Tessics needs and worries. Archer also motivates Tessic to take action based on a sustainable solution that fits with Tessic's belief in his role as protector of his people.
About Starfleet Leadership Academy:
Star Trek is full of great examples of leadership. Jeff Akin, a leader with over 20 years of executive management experience in both the public and private sectors, breaks down each episode of Star Trek, from The Original Series to Discovery and beyond, pointing out examples of great leadership, management, lean/six-sigma, communication and more.
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