Seven is alone for a month and Janeway unlocks the secret to Change Management
On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Voyager, One (Season 4, Episode 25). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Janeway and explore the effects of isolation on Seven of Nine.
Janeway unlocks the reason people are resistant to change. With that, Jeff explores how to mitigate that and to help you more effectively manage change in your organization.
In Jeff's analysis of Seven of Nine's isolation, he discusses the horrors of solitary confinement in criminal justice systems. Visit Unlock the Box to learn more and see what you can do to help stop this inhuman practice.
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Welcome, everyone! Thanks for joining me today. While Seven of Nine is left alone for just over a month, Janeway shows us the value of relying on experts. She also gives is a glimpse into a powerful change management methodology that we’ll explore in the 25th episode of the 4th season of Voyager, One.
We start out in the mess hall with, oh…this won’t be at all awkward! Seven is going to be social! She walks up to Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres and…it does not go well. “What is your place of origin.” But luckily, The Doctor comes to the rescue! Turns out it’s a holodeck program where he’s trying to help her be more comfortable in social situations.
She’s taking him very literally and missing all the nuance. Kind of par for the course with her. She’s still relatively new, having just arrived and been de-Borg’ed at the beginning of this season, but she and the Doctor have developed a really strong mentor-type relationship at this point. He’s working to help her better acclimate to life on a Starfleet vessel. And don’t think that irony isn’t lost on me! The hologram, you know, the computer program, is the one teaching an ex-Borg how to be more human. Love it!
The ship is approaching a “Mutara class nebula.” The thing is huge! SO massive the ship’s sensors. Well, the ship can’t even read how big it is.
As they’re working to figure out their way around or through it, Kim detects radiation that quickly starts to impact the crew. Paris drops to the deck and Kim’s skin is scarring up. They are barely able to reverse course, which stops the radiation from affecting them, but the damage is done. Sickbay is overrun. The Doctor and Seven are unaffected and are treating the crew. They’re successful. Mostly. One person didn’t survive.
After the survivors have recovered, Seven, in astrometrics, as mapped the nebula. “110 light years, possibly more” “Will take us a month to go through it and over a year to get around it.” Plus, the crew can’t handle the radiation. Janeway won’t take no for an answer, though! “I’ll be damned if I’m going to be stopped by a nebula.”
The Doctor has determined that putting the crew in stasis chambers, suspended animation, is the only way to get through the nebula. He says he’d put the crew under while he monitored them and the ship’s functions. Luckily, at this point, he has some rudimentary knowledge of ship’s systems and could probably handle keeping the ship on course.
Janeway isn’t convinced, though. “You’ll need backup.” They have no idea what the affects of the nebula on his systems will be and, as any experienced manager will tell you, you never want to be just one person deep on any critical process.
The Doctor reminds her that Seven was unaffected, so she goes to ask her to back the Doctor up. She is eager to agree. Janeway is still skeptical. She mentions the impacts of loneliness, especially for someone that just a short time ago was part of a collective; a hive-mind. Still, Seven insists she is up to the task and that she can handle it.
Janeway agrees with the plan and does the next thing any decent manager or leader would do. She gets the brain trust together! She knows that this is dangerous, complicated, and absolutely cannot fail, so she’s pulling in her experts to walk through the plan. She also knows that more brains are better than one.
She’s meeting with Chakotay, Kim, Paris and Torres. They’re questioning her on the plan, trying to poke holes in it, but, The Doctor has provided her with answers to everything. Still not liking the idea, Paris asks, “I assume we’ve explored all the alternatives.” And Janeway responds in such an amazing, insightful way. She agrees with Tom, that she’s not comfortable with this either. But she says she thinks “it’s about loss of control.”
By choosing to not argue with Tom on this point, but instead agreeing with him, she deflated any more opposition to the plan. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone was excited about it, but they weren’t looking to shoot it down anymore. After this, they have consensus on moving forward everyone leaves and gets to work.
Everyone, that is, except Chakotay. “Tell me this isn’t a mistake.” He has concerns with leaving Seven in charge. She and Janeway haven’t had the smoothest relationship so far and, as we saw in our episode on Message in a Bottle, she has conflicts with a lot of the crew. “And this is the person I’m leaving in charge. You want me to tell you I’m not crazy.” She says that she truly believes that Seven wants to do the best she can and that she wants to be a contributing member of the crew; that this could be an opportunity for her to redeem herself in the eyes of the crew. Chakotay is satisfied by this.
Honestly, though, I’m not. Objectively, which is how Chakotay was coming at this, Seven is a terrible choice. She has yet to give an indication that she’ll put the crew over her own personal desires. In fact, as he even points out here, she has been actively insubordinate on a number of occasions. I feel like I’d need more than a ‘gut feeling,’ or instinct to agree putting the lives of the entire crew in her hands. That said, the only other option is to have the Doctor do this on his own and Janeway has already shown us the folly in that.
What makes this scene work for me; my head canon on it, is that Chakotay and Janeway have a strong relationship that has its foundation rooted in trust. Just being able to confront and ask her about this speaks to that. I think he just needed to voice his concern and see her reaction to it. She heard him, even repeated his concerns back to him and agreed with them, and didn’t get all defensive and combative. She responded in a way that was in alignment with their trusting relationship. That’s really all you can ask for in a situation like this, right?
The Doctor is putting people in their chambers. He’s put everyone in the same area to better monitor them. Tom Paris is really not cool with this, “Do I detect a hint of claustrophobia? Why do they have to design these things like coffins?” But, of course, Kim is there to help him through it! “Should we replicate you a teddy bear?”
What’s wrong with having a teddy bear? I still have my teddy bear my granny got me when I was born. Bobby. I don’t sleep with him, but I still have him. I kinda resent that remark, Ensign Kim!
Janeway goes under, and the ship is under The Doctor and Seven’s command. “It’s just the two of us now.”
We join them 10 days in. They have a daily routine and all seems to be going well. We follow Seven as she goes through key areas of the ship, checking readings, making small adjustments here and there. It’s all good. Until somebody screws it all up! “Tom Paris has left his stasis unit and is unconscious.”
Apparently there’s a mechanism where they can let themselves out of the chambers. The Doctor says it’s not normal, but not uncommon for people to come out of stasis and basically sleep walk. He was out and about for awhile…it’s weird that the radiation didn’t affect him at all. I mean, they just got close to it earlier in the episode and he was out for the count, but now that they’re deep inside of it, nothing. Hmm. Don’t know about that.
The Doctor decides to fill their time by heading to the holodeck to practice social skills some more. It goes a little better. She’s visiting with Neelix and then Janeway, but she’s talking shop. “The subspace matrix field looks right.” The Doctor stops the program and tells her to try again. They’re interrupted by an emergency in Engineering. They have to eject the anti-matter tanks! It’s getting worse quickly, the readings show the hull is breaching!! But…everything is ok. Nothing is wrong at all. Issues with the bio-neural gelpacks caused false readings. They go to repair them.
You’d think someone would have told them the gelpacks needed maintenance. Or at least encouraged them to check on them given the radiation from the nebula. That’s what their inspection reveals. The nebula’s effects are causing unexpected reactions in them.
Another unexpected reaction, The Doctor’s program begins deteriorating. They rush back to sickbay and determine his mobile emitter is no longer any good. He’ll need to stay in sickbay. They agree that she needs to step up her patrols and checks; the nebula is impacting ship’s systems much more than expected.
We fast forward to the 29th day. Seven reports her dreams are becoming disturbing and that she’s starting to succumb to the loneliness. After dealing with some more systems issues, the computer reports they still have “6 days, 5 hours” until they get out of the nebula.
She continues her patrol and starts hearing things. She hears Tom Paris again, but can’t find him anywhere; in fact, she finds him safe in his stasis chamber. Another starship hails and asks for an equipment trade. She beams him over to do the trade. He says he’s alone on his ship and, luckily, is resistant to the radiation. He’s trying to be the first of his kind to cross the nebula. As they’re talking, he asks, “how are you handling the loneliness?” She doesn’t have an answer and just tries to continue the trade. He wants to stay on the ship longer but she refuses. In fact, she refuses to aggressively, she leads him to the transporter at phaser point! As they’re walking she hears Paris again which distracts her long enough for the guy to run off.
She goes to The Doctor for help. He can’t detect the intruder and assumes he has a cloaking device. He tells her it is critical that she finds the intruder but he can’t help.
As she’s on the hunt she starts hearing a multitude of more and more voices, but she continues looking, trying to ignore them. The intruder, Tragis, hails her and starts taunting her; threatening her. “I know your sensors can’t detect me, so you’ll have to ask me where I am.” He sends her on a wild goose chase to Engineering and then to the Bridge. She’s hearing more voices and now she’s seeing crew out and about, burning up from the radiation.
She decides to play hardball with Tragis. “Let’s play another game.” She thinks she’s beaten him, but then he walks into Engineering. She blasts him with her phaser rifle and it has no effect on him at all. He continues taunting her.
The Doctor, who has repaired his mobile emitter in the last few weeks walks in and sees her yelling at nothing. She’s hallucinating. He tries talking her down but she is in a bad way. She slowly begins to accept that almost everything she’s experienced has been a hallucination. The Doctor confirms that the effects that impacts the bio-neural gelpacks and his emitter also impacted her Borg implants. She admits that she’s feeling fear and apprehension.
As they’re talking, the systems start failing around her again and The Doctor’s program fails. He’s dead! He’s gone.
We fast forward again. A burned Harry Kim is now taunting her as she checks in on the ship’s progress. They have “17 hours 11 minutes” left to go. Her hallucinations are out of control. Voyager has a green hue now, like a Borg Cube. There’s a Borg chasing her now. “You cannot survive without the Collective. A Borg cannot be One.” I feel like this Brog has been reading some Ayn Rand…
Her panic and anxiety are growing, taking control. She’s seeing Tuvok, Janeway, Paris, Chakotay and Kim all pushing her buttons; taunting her, just…just talking trash. She tries to maintain her self-talk and finally crumples onto the deck. “I am Seven of Nine. I am alone, and I will adapt.” She passes out.
Moments later, she wakes up in sickbay with The Doctor, Janeway and Chakotay waiting for her. She made it! Just barely. “I am glad I was able to help.”
The episode ends where it began, in the mess hall. She joins Kim, B’Elanna and Tom Paris. This is no holodeck simulation. She’s still terribly awkward, but much better. She’s also very vulnerable, “I felt the need for companionship.” They have a really good conversation about her experiences. She shares that Paris escaped his unit 4 different time. Harry digs into him a little bit but Seven stands up for him, “Perhaps you dislike being alone.”
Could you do it? Could you spend 35 days alone? 35 days alone with the lives of the people you work with and care about on the line? For me, when I first watched this episode I thought I could totally handle it. I’m a pretty introspective guy and 35 days really isn’t that long. Is it?
A few years ago, a poker player named Rich Alati bet $100k that he could spend 30 days in total isolation and darkness. He said he started hallucinating after 3 days and gave up after 20.
Many Catholic saints are described as hermits, people that would leave society to live alone in the presence of God. The negative effects on them were often so severe that around the 13th century the church actually started putting rules into place that limited complete isolation.
So, maybe I couldn’t do it. But I’m really just so thankful I don’t have to. But do you know who does have to? Many prisoners around the world and through the US Correctional system are subjected to solitary confinement. Or the SHU, as they called it in Orange is the New Black, you know, Janeway’s holonovel program that Netflix turned into a series.
But seriously, in the name of rehabilitation and corrections, in the name of justice…we are forcing people into situation like this. A 2018 report from the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the Liman Center at Yale Law School estimates, at the low end, there were about 61,000 people in solitary in the United States. On top of that, though is how long! I mean, Alati started hallucinating after 3 days and the average stay in solitary, based on really sketchy data, because it’s all self-reported and admittedly categorized and filtered, is just under 30 days. 30 days!! It blows my mind that we treat humans like this even now, in the 21st century.
Seven of Nine could hardly maintain her sanity and she at least had something to do, a responsibility! But spending nearly as long as she did, with no purpose, all alone is just inhumane.
So, could I do it? No. No I don’t think I could. And no one should ever, ever have to.
On its whole this wasn’t a great episode, not in my opinion. Jeri Ryan’s performance as Seven of Nine is amazing, though! I mean, she’s basically the whole show! Could you imagine needing to learn all those lines, especially with the technobabble stuff and a lot of it playing off a pre-recorded computer voice? Amazing. If she brought less to this episode it would have been a total stinker.
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There was an almost upsetting amount of continuity issues that really took me out of it: Tom Paris escaping his pod with no injuries from the radiation, not thinking about checking the bio-neural gelpacks…you know, basically the entire nervous system of the ship.
I did admire the strength of Seven of Nine, though. This was an interesting examination of mental health through a trying and challenging time. She was lonely, alone. Her anxiety was growing at a near exponential rate. But she maintained a positive self-talk, she relied on mantras and worked to adapt to the situation. And it wasn’t enough.
That’s an important distinction. She was doing all the right things but still suffered the effects of her isolation and anxiety. What I take that to mean is that we can’t do it alone. Even the most mentally healthy need help in some situations, just like someone in peak physical health does! Just because Arnold Schwarzenegger is still throwing serious iron, even in his 70’s, doesn’t mean he’s doing it alone. He uses a spotter and has people that help him with his aftercare when lifting. So why wouldn’t we need the same thing for our mental health. Well, simple answer is…we do. I really appreciated this aspect of the episode.
Janeway is in stasis within the first 12-ish minutes of the episode. In that time, though, she walks us through leadership in a crisis situation. Beautifully.
As we’ve discussed in recent episodes, she leans on her experts – the bigger brain – instead of just going on her own and trying to be the hero. She understands the danger of relying on a single person or resource for any critical process and, my favorite, she lays out why people freak out and resist change.
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A lot happens, really quickly in the beginning of this episode. In an instant, their progress is blocked and they’re going to have get really innovative to keep moving. Janeway starts her investigation with Seven where she gets the facts. About a year to go around, a month to go through but then they have to deal with the radiation.
It’s interesting, now that I say that, that taking the path around, adding a year to the journey isn’t even discussed. In fact, even more interesting given what we’ll talk about here shortly.
Well, anyway, she decides they’re going through, so her next stop is the Doctor. What are the options given the radiation? He’s adamant that the only way is stasis. I wonder if the warp nacelles are out of the question. Remember our episode on Enterprise, The Catwalk? There was a massive storm they had to go through that was full of radiation, so they camped out in the nacelles. Well, maybe the tech has changed too much.
Either way, she’s made her decision and she has the method. But she’s identified a flaw and that is relying on only The Doctor to get them through it all. This is near prescient as the Doctor does have issues in the nebula; it would have been catastrophic for him to have been left on his own. But this whole back-and-forth is important and super relevant to you. Having just one person that can do a thing is terrifyingly dangerous.
From the assumption of positivity this leaves you just one accident, or surprise win away from being lost. You’ll hear people say things like, ‘we’re fine, unless they get hit by a bus,’ but I prefer, ‘we’re fine, unless they win the lottery.’ Either way, you’re in the same place. One breath away from losing someone your entire operation is dependent on.
From a more nefarious perspective, this allows these people to essentially hold you hostage. You need them and they know it. They want a raise, you’re giving it to them. They want a fancy, revolving gyroscope of a workstation that costs $15,000, they’re getting it.
I used to work in an organization that used barcodes to track applications. They’d come in, get a barcode slapped on them and we’d scan it as moved from process to process. It was a pretty ancient system and there were plans to deprecate it, but that was still awhile down the road. There were literally two people that knew how to support the system because they had created it. This wasn’t a commercial solution, no, totally home grown. Guess who had the nicest offices? Guess who had their own parking spaces? Yeah, those guys ruled the roost because they knew everything we did depended on them.
So you always want to be sure you have a backup. Or, as we’d say on the sub – a backup for the backup. Have more than one person trained and ready for every operation but especially your critical ones. That way, you won’t be in a position to be held hostage, but also, the people that know the thing won’t feel that they’re held hostage by you or the process. They’ll be able to take time off or look for new opportunities without the knowledge that everything hinges on them.
Janeway’s insistence that The Doctor have someone backing him up saved the ship. Had they relied on him alone, he wouldn’t have been able to address the bio-neural gelpack issues and Voyager would have been lost. So I want you to identify your key and critical processes and who is trained and ready to run them. If you’ve only listed one person…you have some work to do.
So now she has all the pieces in place. She doesn’t just rush ahead and make it so. No, she brings together her trusted experts and has them ask questions and try to poke holes in her plan. This is an amazing way to end up with the best possible solution to any problem.
What goes well in this meeting is that Janeway has anticipated many of the questions and concerns that will come up. She’s able to respond to most of the questions with information provided from either Seven or The Doctor.
That’s an important detail. She’s not answering as if it is her knowledge or her expertise. No, she says, “The Doctor assures me…” This immediately adds credit and credibility to her responses. She’s demonstrating that this isn’t just the world according to Janeway, but it’s the best information they have at the moment.
It is interesting, though, that when Tom Paris asks “I assume we’ve explored all the alternatives.” That the topic of adding a year and going around the nebula isn’t brought up. I mean, maybe they’re ok with that. But we don’t know. I mean, it’s not a great option, but it is an option, it is an alternative. Even if it’s rejected, it shows at least two things. First, it demonstrates transparency on Janeway’s part. Second, it potentially strengthens the stasis plan because the thought of adding a year to their journey is unbearable. When I’m asked for recommendations on a strategy or a large purchase or something, I will always include what I think is the ridiculous option that no one will like because, frankly, it is an option. Something like, ‘Option 1 is migrating our applications to the cloud which will have these benefits and these risks. Option 2 is replace our application servers which will have these benefits and these risks. Option 3 is to maintain status quo which has no benefits and all this risk.’
It may seem ridiculous to point out that 3rd option, but it is an option. And if you have someone making the decision that is overly cost conscious, or doesn’t trust newer technologies, this helps draw their focus to actual options that can solve the problem.
Janeway masterfully deflects Tom’s question here but I believe it would have been more beneficial for her to acknowledge that going around the nebula is an alternative.
In her masterful response, though, she shows great empathy by agreeing with everyone’s resistance and concern and then she explains why people tend to resist change, “it’s about loss of control…”
It does not feel good to not be in control, to not know what is coming. When we think of change we tend to think of these massive, earth shattering changes. New software, shifting to remote and hybrid work and meeting spaces, having new ownership come in. And, yeah, those things are huge and scary, but we deal with change at a much more micro level every single day. In fact, I’ve heard it said that one of the most disruptive changes that can happen at work, the thing that will upset people the most, is where they sit. Where their desk is at.
So when you hear the phrase, change management, know that it is about more than those big changes that get all the attention.
Now Janeway hits on one of the biggest reasons people resist change. They don’t know or understand the change. They feel like it’s something they don’t have a say in and can’t control.
Prosci is an organization that helps organizations work through change and learn how to manage it on an ongoing basis. They have a methodology that I use in change management called ADKAR. Like so many tools we use it’s an acronym, of course. But the acronym names the five measurable outcomes a person and an organization need to successfully navigate a change. Those outcomes are:
Each of these are measured on a 0 – 5 scale with 5 being the ideal outcome. Defined simply, Awareness measures the awareness that a change needs to happen, Desire measures how much people want and support the change, Knowledge measures how well people know how to change, Ability measures how well people are able to change, like having the right skills and training, and Reinforcement measures support, usually from leadership, to sustain the change.
Janeway addressing the feeling of loss of control really speaks to Awareness and Knowledge. If people know and really believe that the change needs to happen, that they need to be put in stasis and the know and understand what that means and what it will be like, they will be more accepting, willing and ready for the change.
As a leader, preparing your teams for change is your job. There are a number of methodologies and approaches to change management, but I have always had success with Prosci’s approach. ADKAR, especially applied with an understanding of their three-phase process is powerful and has never failed me. This isn’t sponsored content at all, just something I know works. Check it out, I’ll put their link in the show notes, and then let me know what you think.
Seriously, check out the Prosci site and share your thoughts with me.
I’m on Twitter: @ SFLA podcast and you can follow me on all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Tragis, a k i n and you can share your thoughts in the Starfleet Leadership Academy podcast group on Facebook.
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
We’re going right back to Deep Space 9. Season 6, episode 18, Inquisition. Oh, this will be a fun one! This episode adds a dimension to Starfleet that was the basis for one of the movies, a strong theme in later Discovery and a rumored series of all its own. Yep…we’re going to be introduced to Section 31. I can’t wait to see what lessons and takeaways we can get from this one.
Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!
Prosci Link from show notes: https://www.prosci.com/methodology/adkar