Book Cover

In week seven of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! we begin Part 2 of the book and tackle chapters 8 and 9, titled Change, In a Word and Welcome Aboard Sante Fe.

Part 2: Control

The second part of Turn The Ship Around delivers the core structure of Marquet’s leadership model. In the introduction to the section he exposes the core concept, which is the intent to divest control and distribute it to the officers and the crew. This is a major diversion from the classic leader-follower model.

Chapter 8: Change, In A Word

The framing question for the chapter is, “What’s the best way to change decision making authority in your organization?”

Two side notes before beginning:

  1. This chapter begins exposing the Marquet’s leadership model. Each chapter includes a “mechanism” for distributing control which is the central idea in the chapter. Each mechanism is profound, the material in the chapter provides support and context. I have marked the mechanisms by making them bold. 
  2. A lot of pieces had to align for the change described by Marquet to be successful. While the story gives us glimpses into the trials and tribulations, I suspect that Marquet has spared us the long tedious periods of angst he and the crew must have suffered as they experimented and learned.

The chapter begins with Marquet meeting with his officers and chiefs after taking command of the Santa Fe. In the meeting, he asks whether or not the adage that the chiefs run the Navy (and by extension the boat) was true. While once this was true, over the years the role of the chief eroded so that control was concentrated at the top of the hierarchy. This is the natural outcome of the leader-follower model. In this case, the generic code for control, the leader-follower model, created an environment so that control rested in the leader.

Mechanism: find the generic code for control and rewrite it. Page 53

Change requires disrupting the structure (Marquet’s generic code) that drives behavior. The officers and chiefs agreed that if they were really going to “run” the boat, the chiefs would have to be accountable for their areas (eyeball accountability). Marquet delegated the responsibility for approving the leave chits for the crew that reported to them (this had been the XO’s role) to the chiefs. The change rewrote the generic code for control on the Santa Fe. To compensate for the XO’s loss of power, Marquet delegated the approval of officer’s leave chits to the XO. Both changes shifted control down the chain of command, reducing the processing overhead, increasing the responsiveness of the process and giving line leaders more control. Marquet commented that he had changed the generic code of control and exceeded his authority twice in one day.

The impact of involving the officers and chiefs in distributing control created an atmosphere of change that set the tone for later changes on the Santa Fe. The shift from a leader-follower to a leader-leader model right out of the gate generated energy to tackle harder issues later. The idea of re-writing the generic code for control is more than a metaphoric trick of words. I have noted statements about values that do not translate behaviors are meaningless. Re-rewriting the generic code is about changing how an organization behaves in an observable and demonstrable manner. Changing behavior requires addressing competence of those performing the work and the clarity both the task and mission.

Chapter 9: Welcome Aboard Santa Fe

Chapter 9 opens with the question, “Don’t like something about the culture in your organization and want to change it?”

The change to delegate control leads to immediate results. One effect was that military discipline improved. Mouthing off to your chief now had tangible consequences. Lip now might translate into not getting your next leave. Not that there were not skeptics. Change is never adopted by everyone universally. [I  The definition of change is “to make or become different” which makes people nervous. Change is not always positive. Marquet decided to focus his change efforts on changing the perception of the crew about their boat.

Mechanism: act your way to new thinking. Page 65

In a meeting with the boat’s officers, Marquet asked how they would know if the crew was proud of the Santa Fe. The conversation once started, (note: the text provides a great example of priming the pump) generated a number of observable behaviors. As with the discussion of the first mechanism, defining observable behaviors provides a tool to generate feedback.

Marquet and his officers settled on the approach of ordering everyone to follow the three-name rule. In essence, they were ordering that everyone to use action to change how they viewed the board. The rule was that when a member of the crew saw a visitor on the boat is it they were to greet the visitor using the visitor’s name, the sailor’s name and the name of the boat. This is somewhat related to Marriott’s 10/5 rule. Earlier in the book, we saw the previous captain line the crew up with the officers in front and the enlisted men in the back for announcements. It made communication difficult. The next day, when Marquet briefed the crew he had the enlisted men cluster around him and had the officers move to the back. The change how the crew queued change the dynamic in how information flowed on the Santa Fe.

On page 67 there is a practical exercise for helping to embed a culture change in an organization.

The three-name rule did not make people proud of being on the Santa Fe, but using the rule made people act like they were not victims. The shift in behavior helped the crew to stop acting like victims. Marquet summarizes the choices leader have to create change as choosing between change you think and hope this leads to a new behavior or to change how you behave and hope this leads to a new way of thinking. A throwback to fake it until you make it?

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!

Week 6: I Relieve You