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Manager of the FUTURE! - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
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Manager of the FUTURE!
In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, there is a certain pattern in crisis conversations.  Usually they are between Cisco and O'Brien and go something like this:

Cisco: Is there any way to re-energise to molestators?
O'Brien: Well I could reroute the capitulation circuit to cross-cut the tachyon pulse which should reverse the direction of chronon emissions.
Cisco: Good plan, chief.  How long will it take?
O'Brien: Two days
Cisco: You have half an hour.

Is it just me, or is demanding things faster than people say they can do them not a very useful management technique?  Is there something about stating a time limit with sufficient authority that slows down time, or something?
12 comments or Leave a comment
brinker From: brinker Date: February 10th, 2013 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I consider it a horrible management strategy.

But it's also a Star Trek trope as traditional as "dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a..." or killing the redshirt. Scotting once confessed that he exaggerated the length of time it would take to do something so that he could look impressive when he did it faster.

I've assumed the other shows picked this up just to continue the tradition.
brinker From: brinker Date: February 10th, 2013 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Scotting? No clue where that came from. I'd blame it on auto-fill or something, but I can't. Must be the tribbles (otherwise known as the 12 lb kitten/cat) who's convinced my neck is a much better place to sit than my lip.
steveclapton From: steveclapton Date: February 10th, 2013 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Having been subjected to the same management technique in real life it is a terrible technique.

However it makes for good drama in fiction and as has been said it is a trope of all Star Trek, especially when it comes to engineers fixing things.
simont From: simont Date: February 10th, 2013 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, hold on there. Surely in the typical Star Trek scenario the point is that you only have half an hour because that's when the entire station/universe/plot (delete as appropriate) will blow up if it isn't at least somewhat fixed? In which case, well, those are the facts and it's not clear that the captain's approach of communicating them clearly is the worst available option. If they had instead said 'fine, no pressure' and half an hour later *BANG*, that's surely a worse outcome.

It's a terrible management technique in real life because (typically) things are not in fact that life-and-death urgent and instead the manager is imposing extra urgency by fiat, so that if the employee doesn't get it done in half an hour the worst that will happen is that they lose a job that they've just discovered isn't that awesome anyway.

(Of course in real life there's also the possibility that it actually is fairly urgent because of the manager's previous failure to deal with something in a timely fashion. The typical suggested response is 'lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine', which may or may not actually work in reality but certainly doesn't hold water in the case of imminent station explosion.)
brinker From: brinker Date: February 11th, 2013 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
All quite true as well. Life and death does kind of change the importance of certain things.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 11th, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't feel this argument is legitimate. Shouldn't the conversation rather go "Shit, we don't have time to do that then. Let's think of something else."

If my life depended on my copying out Lord of the Rings by tomorrow evening, I'm pretty much doomed, regardless of how much Commander Cisco shouts at me.
simont From: simont Date: February 11th, 2013 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
demanding things faster than people say they can do them

I do wonder, in some cases, if the actual sequence of events is more like this.

Captain: How long will it take to fix?
Engineer: [thinking in terms of "fix properly so it stays fixed and doesn't introduce technical debt"] Two days.
Captain: [thinking in terms of "fix well enough that we don't blow up in half an hour's time"] You have half an hour.
Engineer: [does a hasty and horrific bodge barely adequate to prevent explosion]
Day: [is saved]
Engineer: [puts in a day cleaning up the previous fix and two more days fixing it properly, once the fuss has died down]
(Deleted comment)
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 11th, 2013 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, that is a more realistic scenario, but in that case the engineer is being incompetent since they are aware of the imminent threat of demise, and that the useful figure is not how long it would take to do it properly, but how long to bodge it.
markbanang From: markbanang Date: February 13th, 2013 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, you used the term technical debt, on livejournal. Did you mistake this for Programmers stack exchange?
thegreenman From: thegreenman Date: February 11th, 2013 12:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
The real point here is that much TV writing in the states is done by groups of writers to a specific formula - the above scenario is simply there to insert the necessary sense of jeopardy at a specific point in the plot...

sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 11th, 2013 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Indeed. Mostly I'm drawing attention to it as a cheap trick used by lazy writers to give the appearance of increased tension which doesn't really work because *they made all the numbers up*. Contrast this with the episode where the Cardassian mutiny supression program on the station computer kicks in which does an excellent job of using the protagonists' reaction to the situation to raise the stakes and drive the tension in the plot.
12 comments or Leave a comment