Chapter 25. Kobayashi Maru Management

Ted’s feeling pretty good. He sits across from me in the conference room and says, “Program launch is solid. We’ve been working on the details for almost a month. We vetted the concept with all the affected teams and made tweaks, and now they’re fine. The only step left is sending the announcement to the whole company.”

“Nice work, Ted,” I say, “Huge amount of work.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re not remotely done.”

“Pardon?”

A Test of Character

In the 23rd century of the Star Trek universe, there exists a test for cadets on the command track of Star Fleet. Via Memory Alpha:

The test primarily consisted of the cadet placed in command of a starship. The ship would soon receive a distress signal from the Kobayashi Maru, a civilian freighter within the Klingon Neutral Zone that had been heavily disabled. Being the only ship in range, the cadet usually either chose to withdraw from the rescue mission or enter the neutral zone and rescue the vessel in risk of violating the treaties. The ship would then be confronted by Klingon battle cruisers which typically engaged in a firefight.

The punchline? It is virtually impossible to win in this scenario. The cadet cannot simultaneously save the Kobayashi Maru, avoid a fight, and escape the Neutral Zone intact. The test is one of character and decision making.

A critical part of a manager’s job lies in their ability to appropriately act in unusually complex, unexpected, and perhaps no-win scenarios. But you know ...

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