Book Cover

In week nine of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! we continue to sail through the heart of Marquet’s leadership model.  This week the two chapters are Up Scope! and Who’s Responsible?

Chapter 12: Up Scope!

The opening question for chapter 12 is, “Do you like to help your people come to the right answers?” Helping people come to the right answer is not the same as giving them the answer. Rather it is  providing guidance and energy to help them arrive at an answer.

During the inspection, Marquet and the crew needed to get the Santa Fe into position for the attack demonstration. After establishing where the boat needed to be for the simulation, Marquet retired for the evening leaving the bridge crew to drive the boat towards the agreed upon goal. When he re-entered the bridge in the morning, the Santa Fe was not positioned correctly due to a number of outside issues (presence of other ships in the area, for example). Reacting to the unexpected input had put the Santa Fe in the wrong place. The crew was still letting things happen to them rather than proactively making things happen. In classic leader-follower scenarios, Marquet would have resorted to providing solutions and directly giving orders to get the boat positioned. Instead, Marquet stood to the side and let the bridge crew sort out the issue (mentally I can see him biting his tongue). The presence of the inspectors exacerbated Marquet’s urge to act. The inspection team exerted a huge amount of pressure on Marquet to step up and solve the problem rather than to let the crew sort things out. Stress and perceived urgency often cause leaders to drop back into “safe” leader-follower styles. The vast majority of situations don’t require immediate decisions and leaders can safely foster the development of other leaders by allowing them to find their own solutions.

Mechanism: Resist the urge to provide solutions.

On page 92 Marquet provides three possible techniques to help break the cycle of requiring decisions to be made on short notice. For example, in scenarios where delay is ok (for example when an enemy isn’t trying to sink your submarine), one technique mentioned  is for a leader to gather inputs without forcing consensus. Forcing consensus can hide substantive differences in opinions that can fester and hurt the ability of the team to work together.

Chapter 13: Who’s Responsible?

The framing question for this chapter is, “Are you inadvertently sending a message that erodes ownership and responsibility among subordinates?

The story that Marquet uses to expose how apparently simple and useful procedures can send the wrong message revolved around several inquiries from fleet headquarters that had not been answered in a timely manner. Responses were “owed.” A tickler file maintained by the XO to track requests and responses made sure everyone knew the responses were late, but did not facilitate the completion of the requests. The tickler file process inadvertently eroded the responsibility of the people that were directly responsible for the responses. The XO and the tickler process assumed ownership and enforcement of the process.

Mechanism: Eliminate top-down monitoring systems.

Eliminating top-down monitoring pushes ownership and monitoring to those doing the work. Ownership rests with the person or people responsible for delivering the value. Marquet notes that this mechanism does not get rid of monitoring or measuring. Ensuring that monitoring does occur (as close to the work as possible) makes the progress towards a goal more visible and transparent while keeping the ownership focused on those that can best assure delivery.

As Marquet closes the chapter he references Deming. Deming’s Total Quality Leadership framework is a major influence on the view that efforts to improve process translate into making the organization more efficient. While this sounds like a given, many would argue that heroics or technology are more important than process. Deming’s principles are the basis for change and quality programs.

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

Week 7: Change, In a Word and Welcome Aboard Santa Fe

Week 8: Underway on Nuclear Power and “I Intend to . . .”