Book Cover

In week six of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! we tackle chapter 7, titled I Relieve You. I am breaking the two chapter pattern to layup so that we can have a clean start the second part of the book next week Chapter Seven completes Part One of the book.  Part one serves tells the story of how Captain Marquet came to be in command of the USSN Santa Fe rather than the Olympia. Much of Marquet’s leadership model was emergent (like design in agile). Change may occur even without a shock like Marquet’s reassignment, but adding energy will hasten change. In this case, the shock made the development of Marquet’s leadership model inevitable.

The chapter opens with the question, “Is your organization spending more energy trying to avoid errors than achieving excellence?” U.S. Navy regulations state that the responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command is absolute. Delegating responsibility is not possible, but due to the focus on the specific command, the leadership tends to be very myopic. The commanding officer of a submarine is incented to maximize his performance of his or her boat during their tenure. The commander is not incented to leave a legacy.  This reinforces the entrenched leader-follower model.

The leadership model with all the contextual reinforcement of Navy regulations led the crew to focus on avoiding mistakes. Mistakes in a leader-follower model are career limiting both to the person that made the mistake and to everyone in the chain of command. A focus on not making mistakes makes taking a chance or experimenting to find new ways of working very dangerous.  When an organization, in this case the Santa Fe, needs to change the direction they are traveling, the inability to take chances will make that change difficult.

All was not bleak. Chapter seven describes Maquet’s thoughts and feelings as he waits to take command of the Santa Fe.  The chapter is a layup to the implementation of a new leadership model. Marquet found several factors supporting the impetuous for change; the crew’s wish for change, the support from his mentor and boss, Marquet’s lack of technical background, and the current self-reinforcing death spiral.

In the end, change is a requirement for turning the ship around.  The crew would have to remember that the goal is not to avoid making errors. The goal of any organization is to become better.

Remember to buy a copy of the book and re-along: Turn the Ship Around! (buy a copy and read along!)

Previous Installments

Week 1: Game Plan

Week 2: Forward and Introduction

Week 3: Pain and Business as Usual

Week 4: Change of Course and Frustration

Week 5: Call to Action and Whatever They Tell Me To Do!