Lesson 038: Management actions for the greater good
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 7/16 ('Thine Own Self')


Troi's efforts to pass the Bridge Officer's Test come to a grinding halt during the very final exam, an Engineering scenario simulating an impending ship wide disaster. As the Commander in the simulation, she continually fails to stop the destruction of the ship.

She finally realizes that all of her efforts to learn the technical structure of the ship and its processes are for naught in trying to pass the test, as the only solution to the problem required someone going into a fatally lethal environment to correct the problem, resulting most assuredly in their death.

The real test was to see if she understood that as the Commander her first duty is to the ship, in which case she must be willing to sacrifice a shipmate by sending them to their death in an effort to save the ship.


One of the most difficult challenges of management is to accept the inevitability of having to make dire decisions, which are in favor of the organization, but at the expense of personnel.

Good managers always want to promote and protect their staff. It is a very natural and almost parental sense of duty to the staff that compels good managers to always take actions which favor their staff.

However, great managers must think at a much higher level.

The highest functioning body within any organization is the organization itself. If the organization or company is seen as a pseudo-living entity which provides life giving sustenance for the personnel within itself, then it is easier to understand that if the organization dies, then none of the personnel within the organization can survive.

Survival of the personnel in this case is purely metaphoric, and refers really to the continuation of their job and income, which sustain them and their families.

When faced with the ultimate challenge of balancing budgets to ensure the continuation of the organization into the future, management is often faced with the dilemma of reducing expenses by eliminating personnel resources.

Good organizations and managements always exercise this venue only after exhausting all other options. However, at the end of the day, or more appropriately, as the bottom line will dictate, reduction in work force (a very euphemistic way of describing the much scorned term 'layoff') is mandatory for the survival of the organization.

While some managers can be quite heartless in their decision process and can arrive at this conclusion quickly with no difficulty, most managers will deliberate long and hard, relenting finally by accepting this conclusion with much dismay.

In either case, acceptance of the conclusion is a must. This is where the manager needs to put aside their own personal feelings and commit themselves to the survival of the organization and terminate the unfortunate personnel within their staff.

Sacrifices for the greater good are never easy and always regrettable, no matter how necessary.

Within his first year as CEO of Chrysler, Robert Nardelli was confronted with the devastating consequences of the economic disaster of 2007-2008. In a desperate attempt to save the company, Nardelli was forced to eliminate 35,000 people from his company, 5,000 of whom he had to let go the day before Thanksgiving Day. Nardelli expressed the event was gut-wrenching and traumatic, and when facing the reduced staff in a meeting later, he found it visually haunting.

On a more personal level for each of us, the amputation of our hand or foot or other body part is almost unimaginable; however, at the onset of debilitating Gangrene or Cancer possibly spreading throughout the body and killing us, the removal of the root cause area, such as a hand or foot, can often save the rest of the body. For our own survival, we would choose to relinquish the body part, no matter how painful the physical or emotional consequences.

If managers see their staff as extensions of themselves, then letting their personnel go can be just as painful as Troi committing one of the crew under her command to death, just to save the ship. Even though personally painful, it is an unfortunate necessary course of action for all managers.

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