Compassion, Root Cause Analysis and WWKD?
On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek The Original Series, Wink of an Eye (Season 3, Episode 13). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Kirk.
In a paper thin plot, Captain Kirk shows why compassion is so important in leaders. Jeff also dives into root cause analysis exercises and describes the fishbone diagram. He also talks about the differences between motion and movement.
Redshirts are safer theory: https://nerdist.com/article/star-trek-red-shirts-werent-statistically-the-most-likely-to-die-after-all/
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Welcome! Thanks for joining me today. Bzzz Do you hear that? Must be some insects buzzing around here. Or are they? Find out what’s buzzing around my head, along with how to do a root cause analysis and why compassion is so important as we start the 13th episode of the 3rd season of the Original Series, Wink of an Eye.
Kirk, McCoy, Spock and some other dude, a redshirt! Are on the surface of the planet Scalos. They’re responding to a distress call. On the Enterprise, they can see the people making the distress call, but the landing party can’t see anyone. They keep swatting at what seem to be insects, but there’s no life their tricorders can pick up.
Suddenly, a loud buzzing sound happens and the redshirt guy kind of phases, like goes out of focus, and then disappears! McCoy watches the whole thing happen! They return to the ship to investigate.
On the ship, they’re dealing with a series of small malfunctions, “malfunction, sir.” Kirk, again shows that he runs a tight ship, “Controls are frozen. Have repair crews been assigned? Yes, sir.”
They review the distress call. The Scalosians are nearing extinction. There used to be over 900,000 of them and now, only 5. They don’t know why this has happened to them but are asking for help. They stay on alert – whatever affected them has now affected a member of their crew, Crewman Compton. They need answers.
In sickbay, Nurse Chapel reports that someone had rifled through the medical cabinets while Sulu reports more malfunctions. Nothing major or showstopping, but just a lot of unexplainable things happening.
McCoy is examining Kirk; he didn’t find anything odd or unexpected with Spock. During the exam, Kirk hears the insect buzzing that he heard on the surface again. He wonders if he’s hallucinating but McCoy says he’s not. There’s nothing medically wrong with him. He determines they beamed something up with them. He orders all crew be armed and ready for engagement.
Spock reports strange readings, coming from Life Support. They head there to check it out. On their way, they run into a force field. It only seems to affect the security team, and allows Kirk and Spock through. When they get into Life Support, they find a weird device attached to the system. “Clearly a device of alien origin.” They try to destroy it, but it shocks them. When they try and shoot it, their phasers suddenly disappear. Kirk tries to confront them, but there is no response.
They’re reviewing the information on the bridge. “Yeoman, is that coffee available?” They still don’t know much at all, though. As Kirk sips his coffee, the buzzing starts again, and the people around him seem to be slowing down until they have all but frozen. He suddenly sees one of the people from the distress call, Deela, standing on the bridge. She immediately kisses him. But he’s having none of it! He demands to know who she is and what is going on.
She explains that the Scalosians are hyper-accelerated; they operate at a higher speed and frequency than others. And they’ve done the same to Kirk, “Changed you; you’re like me now.” She keeps touching and stroking him; she clearly has seduction in mind. She continues to kiss him and even shares she’s been kissing him when she was invisible to him. Gross! He shoves her off, wanting nothing to do with this. She keeps pushing the issue, with words now, instead of assault. He pulls his phaser and apologizes for stunning her. She doesn’t seem worried, though. He fires, and the beam slowly escapes the phaser and she easily dodges. It’s too slow. She pulls out a Scalosian weapon and uses it to disarm him. She encourages him to accepts what has happened “there is nothing you can do to change it.” And apparently, when this happens to people, over time, they come to accept and appreciate the condition they are in.
In normal time, Uhura sees that Kirk has disappeared. Spock grabs the cup of coffee, suspecting it may have had something to do with his disappearance.
Kirk is running down the corridor and runs into Compton. We see what Deela meant about accepting it; he is all-in on supporting the Scalosians. So Kirk does the only reasonable thing and attacks him! A vicious, roundhouse kick takes him down as the Scalosians stun him. After he’s stunned, Compton attacks the Scalosians, “he was my captain,” and the head scientist, Rael, smacks him across the face, drawing blood. He collapses and one of the Scalosians remarks that he has cell damage.
While Kirk is out, Deela and Rael discuss their plans. Sounds like they’ve been doing stuff like this for a long time. They see the captives, Kirk, in this case, as little more than pets or playthings. Cellular damage, though, is a death sentence. We see this with Compton as he appears to have aged dramatically and is lying on the floor, dead.
Kirk wakes up and hops to his feet. He immediately demands answers. She reiterates that he will accept all of this, “I will answer anything, and you will approve of it.” Rael explains the dangers of cellular damage and Kirk storms off to sickbay. After he leaves, Rael kisses Deela; he is very jealous of what they have had to do to survive.
In sickbay, Kirk is recording a message to Spock. Deela mocks him for the uselessness of what he’s doing. He keeps going, though. He’s figured out that the device in Life Support will turn the Enterprise into a deep freeze, preserving all the crew for some reason. Deela adds that an environmental catastrophe killed off most of their people and hyper-accelerated them. It also caused all the men to be sterile. They are preserving the crew as breeding stock for the women. “we are saving them for when we need them.”
He is not approving of this, as she had predicted. “We have the right to survive. Not by killing others!” He tries to reason with her. This has been happening for generations and he asks if they’ve actually solved the problem. He offers his crew and possibly even Starfleet to help them “we’ll use every skill we have.” She refuses him, saying they are trapped. In the confusion, he slips his recorded message into the computer in front of Spock and takes off, leaving Deela to herself.
They end up in Kirk’s quarters together. Kirk is starting to play along with the seduction tactics, and is becoming more accepting of Deela and the Scalosians. Just like Deela said would happen.
Spock and McCoy find Scalosian water in Kirk’s coffee. As they discover this, they hear the buzzing again. McCoy starts testing the water while Spock replays the distress signal. He starts playing with the tapespeed and is able to reproduce the buzzing. McCoy finds Kirk’s recorded message, plays it and also hears the buzzing sound. They compare notes, slow down Kirk’s message and they are able to hear it. Spock sends Scotty to the transporter room as they try and come up with a plan.
We rejoin Kirk and Deela in his quarters after something has happened. He’s on his bed, putting on his boots and she’s brushing her hair in front of the mirror. Rael barges in as the continue to get affectionate. He attacks Kirk and Deela stuns Rael to stop him from harming Kirk! He professes his feelings for Deela and she straight shuts him down. “I don’t care what your feelings are.” She talks about Kirk like he’s an object, right in front of him. But he seems unbothered by this. “I hope I behaved correctly.” She seems relieved, but also says she preferred him when he was stubborn and independent. How loving of her…
Nurse Chapel, McCoy and Spock have extracted the Scalosian water and crafted an antidote to it. McCoy is trying to figure out a way to deliver the antidote to Kirk while Spock just gulps down the water! “Spock, you don’t know what that’ll do to you.” Everyone slows down around him, as we saw with Kirk, and, just like that, he’s hyper-accelerated.
Rael’s gotten the transporter working. He’s beamed down the rest of their party. Kirk and Deela head that direction as Rael goes to activate the life support unit.
I love that through this whole thing Scotty’s just standing at the door to the transporter room. Just like a prop in the background. Great touch!
When they’re alone in there, Kirk snags Deela’s weapon and heads off to life support. He was fooling her the whole time! On his way down, he meets up with Spock. They go in together and blast Rael! He’s down! Then they destroy the freezing machine.
Deela comes in afterwards and asks what they plan to do with them. Kirk still offers to help them and asks, “what do you want us to do?” She just wants to return to Scalos.
Spock gives Kirk the antidote, which works like a charm. Spock stays accelerated a little longer to conduct repairs on the ship. Once he’s done, he decelerates as well. Kirk thanks him for the work. “I found it an accelerating experience.”
As the Enterprise returns to normal operation, the Scalosians, looking dejected, appear on the viewscreen as if to say good-bye. The Enterprise puts up warning beacons to keep other ships away from Scalos, and warps away.
What a dumb episode. It doesn’t make any sense at all and can’t hold up to even the tiniest bit of any level of scrutiny. But I still really like it! Spock is a special kind of hilarious through it, Kirk is near his peak in being one-step ahead of the enemy, and he kind of meets his match in Deela. Just a fun, guilty pleasure episode of Star Trek.
Quarks – Ads
This is the 7th episode of the Original Series we’ve watched so far. Through all of them, one thing I’ve loved is the busy-ness and business of the ship. People are in the corridors working on stuff, admin staff need signatures on things and somebody has a tray of coffee. It just gives the Enterprise a realistic feeling. But, of course, they future-ize everything a little. My favorite are the coffee cups. They are clearly those styrofoam cups that are responsible for my growing air-conditioning bill, but they painted them grey. Boom – future…. Love it!
Pop culture nowadays has really skewed what this series actually is. People today think of all the redshirts getting killed, aliens in rubber costumes and Kirk being a stammering, creepy lady’s man.
Now, yeah, there are some rubber suit aliens, but most of them are just really bad costumes or makeup. The whole redshirt thing was actually proven to be mathematically incorrect. Buckle up for this one. In 2017, at a Star Trek: The Math of Khan talk, Mathematician James Grime shared a statistical analysis that goldshirts die at an alarmingly higher rate than redshirts.
In the course of the series, 43 crew members die: 25 redshirts, 10 gold shirts and 8 blue shirts. Seems pretty cut and dry, right?
See, according to the classic Star Trek Technical Manual (which I literally wore out as a kid), there are 239 redshirts on the Enterprise, 136 blue shirts and only 55 gold shirts. So, 10% of the redshirts died and an alarming 18% of the gold shirts. Now, you tell me which odds you’d rather play!
And Kirk being a gross, unashamed lady’s man. I say patently false. Even in this episode, Deela calls him out for being married to his career and his ship. And she’s not the only one in the course of the Original Series or the movies. While the scene in this episode, where he’s putting on his boots and she’s brushing her hair is wildly risqué for this time period and should absolutely not have made it past the censors, let’s be clear on what happened here. Deela was the instigator, 100%. All Kirk did was roll with the punches to manipulate her so he could gain the upper hand.
So, go back and watch the Original Series and see that, while totally a product of the late 60’s, almost none of the stereotypes stand up to any scrutiny; much like this episode.
You know, I was kind of disappointed in the vague way this one ended. Kirk offered to help, seemed like they didn’t want it and then they left. So here’s my headcanon on what actually happened.
At no point was Kirk intending be kept captive or to allow the Enterprise crew to be used as breeding stock, but he also wasn’t about to totally abandon the Scalosians. So, when he manipulated Deela and, um, slipped his boots back on…I think he intended to extend their generation by at least one. Maybe buying them time to work to solve their problem.
See, Kirk’s not a lady’s man. He’s a giver. …or something like that.
There is a lot to unpack in this episode! Kirk, again, going against his stereotype shows great empathy and compassion towards the Scaloisans through this episode and uses a tool that you can put into practice right away. He also asks a question that every manager and every leader should ask, literally all the time, and that is, does this actually solve anything? I’m going to show how the Scalosians shortsighted attempts to address their symptoms is something we experience every day in the workplace and in our communities. Finally, have you ever wondered what the difference between motion and movement is? I sure have. I’ve spent…a lot of time thinking about that, actually. And there is no better example than Deela and her crew in this episode.
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Before diving into the great content from this episode, I want to call out one, little moment that I loved. Early on, there are so many more questions than answers, in fact, there are no answers. Kirk and crew have no reason to do anything but panic, really. Out of the blue, though, super calm, Kirk gets a smile on his face and asks, “Yeoman, is that coffee available?”
He didn’t have to do that. He could have just snagged a cup and barely acknowledged the yeoman, but he took his time. He made eye contact, smiled and asked a stupid question that broke the tension. Little actions like this from leaders go so far in determining how others will react. Like I said, everyone has every reason to panic, but he keep the tone light and friendly, with a clear focus on solving the problem at hand, and, as a result, they are all more prepared for his hyper-acceleration just a few moments later. Masterful!
Ok, let’s talk compassion. I feel like in just the last few years, we’ve started to begin understanding how critical compassion is from our leaders. In fact, I was recently a guest on the Hey! What Did I Miss? Podcast with Aye, Coach Cam, Cameron Johnson and Cameron asked me what role compassion plays in leadership.
I actually answered that, if he had asked me that question 10 or maybe even 5 years ago, I would have told you that conventional wisdom said it played no role. People are here to do a thing, to do a job. They do it, or you show them the door. But now, as we begin to understand emotional intelligence, we know that compassion is everything in leadership. Caring for others; caring how they feel; caring what happens to them…this is leadership. And that’s what we see from Kirk.
First thing he does, once he understands what’s going on, and also the last thing he does, is try to help the Scalosians. He offers the full force of the Federation’s scientists and his ship to help them. They, of course, turn him down, but he doesn’t give up.
The episode happens and, in the end, Deela admits defeat. Kirk would have been well within his rights to send them back to Scalos to die without a second thought. But instead, he doubles down on his offer to help them, but, again, she refuses.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You want to help someone, so very desperately, but nothing you can think of, nothing you think you can offer seems to help or is accepted. Well, if you do find yourself in this situation, just ask yourself, WWKD? What Would Kirk Do?
Well Kirk would go to Leadership 101 training and ask a question. And that question is, “what do you want us to do?” What do you want us to do? Look, I’m here to help, I have resources at my disposal and, maybe more importantly, I care about you and have compassion for you and your situation, so tell me what to do.
This was a great move by Kirk, very big of him. And even though, in the end, he ultimately did leave them on Scalos to die, he knows that he tried. And they know that he tried! Like, if we sci fi this thing out, he could have abandoned them there and they end up solving their problem. The whole time they are plotting revenge against the Federation for leaving them on Ceti Alpha 5….oops, wrong example…they’re plotting revenge, and then, the 5th season of Discovery is the intergalactic, existential crisis from the hate-filled Scalosians.
Or, Kirk does what he does, they solve their problem, and in the intergalactic, existential crisis of Discovery’s 5th season, the Scalosians swoop in with their hyper-acceleration tech and save the day for all. And all because he chose to start with compassion, and, in the end, he chose compassion over revenge.
Now why they keep refusing him, well, that’s one of the many things that just doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny in this episode. But Kirk doesn’t just let them say no and then let them off the hook. No, he, once again, goes to his leadership 101 training and, let’s say it together, he asks a question. Yes! Very good!
As Deela is explaining why they have no choice but to do what they have been doing for generations, he asks, “Did they solve anything?” Their ancestors started abducting people for breeding purposes which kind of takes care of their immediate problem of extinction, but does it really solve anything? It absolutely does not. But it masks the real problems, because, hey…we’re not dead! Their real problems, the root causes of their situation are their hyper-acceleration and sterility. They have completely stopped even thinking about those as problems because they have addressed the most apparent symptom of those root causes.
This is an everyday thing in every workplace in the world. Something isn’t good, so someone addresses the thing, without ever addressing the root cause, which causes new problems so they need to solve those and, again, don’t look for the root cause.
One of my favorite examples is the absolutely ridiculous practice of regular, forced password changes. What’s the problem? Systems or applications get hacked or accessed by unauthorized users. How do people get access? Passwords. Well then, we should change passwords more often!
So what happens? Well, now I have 47 different passwords that all change on a different schedule and have different rules. 5 of the 47 can be changed to anything that’s different than the last, but the other 42 have rules like, can’t be reused from the last 24 passwords, or can’t be in sequence with a prior password. Now you forget your passwords all the time and use advanced tools…like sticky notes under your keyboard to keep track of all of them.
With the intention of solving the access issue, a whole new issue of password management has been created. Oh, and the other part of that whole thing…still a ton of unauthorized access going on! Your Security Office has all these convoluted rules in place, but “Did they solve anything?” I mean, even Microsoft advises against this practice but almost everyone still requires it!
A root cause analysis would show that more robust protocols are needed. Biometrics, password managers, anti-phishing tools, etc. are dramatically more effective and have much less inconvenience and frustration for users.
But, what is a root cause analysis? I think at its simplest, it’s a formal, problem-solving approach that identifies the root cause of issues. Some of these tools include fishbone diagrams, the 5 Whys, pareto charts and formal Brainstorming. I talked about the 5 Whys in the Starfleet Leadership Academy episode on DS9: Things Past and about pareto charts in DIS: Choose Your Pain.
You use these tools to really drive down to the actual thing causing the problem. When you do this, you often solve many visible problems, or symptoms, because they’re often the result of one thing.
Today, I’m going to talk about a relatively simple but powerful tool for conducting a root cause analysis – the fishbone diagram. A fishbone diagram is put together, ideally, in a facilitated session – facilitated chaos is what I’ve called them before! It’s a focused brainstorming session, essentially. But you’re not brainstorming solutions…you’re brainstorming potential causes.
You start by identifying your problem. This is often a visible problem, or a symptom. That’s the head of the fish. Then, you draw a line out from that, like the spine of the fish. You’ll then draw a few, usually 4-6 offshoots from that spine. Those are categories or contributing factors. So for the Scalosians the problem could be facing extinction. The categories, the ribs of the fishbone, could be sterility, hyper-acceleration, radiation and cellular damage. Then, along each rib, each category, you brainstorm potential causes. One you have those, prioritize what causes to address first. A great way to do that is through a pareto chart.
These can be relatively high level and simple, or get wildly complex. That’s going to depend on the depth of the root causes and, honestly, the skill of the facilitator. But, had the Scalosians done a root cause analysis, they could be working towards a long-term solution instead of existing through a never-ending series of deceptions and abductions.
One last concept I want to touch on that this episode alluded to. The concept of motion vs movement. The Scalosians were such a great example of this! They were full of motion; they were hyper-accelerated! But they had no movement; they weren’t going anywhere.
In a work environment this can present in a lot of different ways. In my world, it’s all the meetings, IMs, emails, powerpoints and, well, noise about a thing or a problem, with nothing actually happening or changing. Quick example. In a large organization I worked with, we had $10,000 a month process that basically, if I’m oversimplifying, moved mail from one side of a building to another. Objectively, a wild waste of money. For about 18 months there were countless meetings about it, proposals written, demonstrations done, arguments had and…as far as I know, nothing ever changed. In fact, we probably spent almost as much money talking about the problem as we did just letting the problem exist. So much motion. Absolutely zero movement.
Now I wasn’t able to address that problem in that organization, but not for a lack of trying. The way to stop this from happening, simply, is to look to that class Kirk went to a few times in this episode, leadership 101. And what does leadership 101 teach us to do? That’s right! Yes. Ask a question! When having a meeting about the problem, when you’re engaging in the motion, ask what the meeting will do to move to a solution. If the answer is nothing, or just a bunch of non-specific buzz words; cancel the meeting.
Some motion is good. Tires have to spin, for example, to make the car move. But if you’re ever spinning your wheels and not going anywhere. Take your foot off the gas and figure out a new approach.
When have you been stuck around a lot of motion but had no movement? Let’s talk about in our discussion group. You can click the link in the show notes for it or search for Starfleet Leadership Academy Podcast on Facebook.
You can also find me on Twitter: @ SFLA podcast and you can follow me on all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Transporter Malfunction, a k i n.
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Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
Sticking in 3rd seasons, but jumping all the way to Voyager! It’s the 19th episode, Rise. It’s a Tuvok and Neelix episode!
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