Lesson 049: Management decision making process
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 2/15 ('Pen Pal's')


Ensign Wesley Crusher requests advice from Cmdr. Riker on issues he is having on his first assignment managing a team.

Wesley is disturbed that he was unable to order his team to perform certain tests because they advised him the tests were unnecessary, even though he (Wesley) thought the tests were important. Wesley denies the issue has anything to with being intimidated or ego driven, rather it is his reluctance to give orders to people who are older than him.

Wesley says he feels unsure that he is correct in his decision and that he questions himself on why his judgment is superior to the other team members.

Extrapolating on the situation, Wesley asks what if he makes the wrong decision in something more critical and ends up losing lives.


The lesson in this case is really taught very concisely and clearly by Riker himself.

Riker answers that age difference is not relevant in the mission. He educates Wesley, that responsibility and authority go hand in hand with command and that the goal is to have Wesley make a few decisions which will lead him to a pattern of success and help build his self confidence in command.

Riker warns Wesley that if he (Wesley) has no trust in his own judgment, then he does not belong in the command chair; being in command means, that if you are wrong in making a decision then you are wrong - just accept it.

Riker tells Wesley that it is arrogant to think you will never make mistakes.

This is great advice for all new managers and overconfident managers also. It is perhaps the height of hubris indeed to think that one will never make a wrong decision.

When Riker tells Wesley to always ask the question 'What would Capt. Picard do?' in the situation, Wesley says the Capt. Picard would ask everyone's opinion and then make his decision. When Riker queries further, why doesn't anyone question Capt. Picard's decision, Wesley can only answer, 'Because Capt. Picard is Capt. Picard' - meaning Capt. Picard's command decision stands on its own merits and based on the Captain's reputation.

Therein lay the answer to this question of command.

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