“Make it so.” These are the iconic words that Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the esteemed leader of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise D, is renowned for. However, these words don’t typically serve as a direct order in the conventional sense. Instead, they signify agreement — a nod to his crew to proceed based on a consensus of ideas from each officer in the room. Let’s delve deeper into the decision-making process within the command crew of the Enterprise and explore the valuable practices we can glean from it.

As a manager — whether a commanding officer, team lead, or department head — you’ve likely amassed a wealth of experience in the roles your team members now hold. This parallels Picard’s journey, advancing from ensign to captain while gaining insights into various departments of a starship and their inner workings. One might assume he could easily direct LaForge, Worf, Crusher, and the department heads on what to do to accomplish the current mission. But he doesn’t, and neither should you. Why?

Jean-Luc Picard recognizes the inherent limitations of human capability in grappling with complexity and acquiring knowledge. When you transition from hands-on tasks, like software development, to a managerial role, you may be an expert in the domain, programming languages, and frameworks you interact with daily, akin to Picard’s expertise as an exceptional pilot during his early tenure on the USS Stargazer. However, as you ascend to roles like team lead, head of development overseeing multiple teams, or even CTO, you’ll still comprehend the functioning of the technical aspects, but you’ll also need to master new domains such as people management and strategic decision-making in collaboration with peers and superiors. Yet, it’s impractical, both in terms of time and cognitive capacity, to keep up with the technical knowledge your team continuously accumulates. What should you do?

Let’s revisit Picard’s approach. When the Enterprise crew embarks on a new mission or encounters unexpected events, the command crew gathers in the conference lounge behind the bridge. Picard ensures that everyone comprehends the situation and objectives clearly. He then provides each person in the room an opportunity to express their ideas and elaborate on how their respective departments can contribute to achieving the goal. From this point onward, he assumes the role of a knowledgeable facilitator. Drawing upon his expertise, he comprehends every proposition, poses inquiries, and steers the team towards devising a collective strategy. Consider this as a model and replicate the approach — ensure your team is well-versed in their mission and involve everyone in devising the pathway to attain it. Once the plan appears reasonably viable (though not perfect, a topic for future discussion), it is your time to assert: “Make it so.”