Book Cover

In week ten of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! we add two more mechanisms for control and complete part two the book. This week the two chapters are A New Ship and We Have A Problem.

Chapter 14: A New Ship

The opening question in this chapter is: “How comfortable are you showing your gut feelings to your staff? Organizations that only foster formal communication cripple decision making by reducing the amount of information and context that is available. Communication needs to include both formal and informal components to increase the chance that it will be effective.

The example that Marquet uses to illustrate that using only formal is communication is risky is an incident when the boat was returning from the inspection. As the boat was returning Marquet questioned one of his officers about a turn that Marquet perceived as being late. Marquet did not know that the officer had a good reason for the timing. Without context, Marquet questioned the officer; sucking the initiative out of him. Without context, Marquet failed as the type of leader he was trying to be.

In the section of the chapter titled, Thinking Out Loud, Marquet reflected that there was still too much leader-follower type of interaction required to keep things moving. Rather than generating an information-rich environment that would enable the “I intend” mechanism so that it would be a standard operating procedure.

Discussing the issue with his officers, they decided that the crew was losing perspective of what was important due to lack of context. Secondly, there was little informal communication. Adherence to purely formal communication crowds out the important contextual information needed for peak performance. All this was going on while at the same time Marquet got the call that the Santa Fe received an above average rating (better than 1/2 of the submarines in the fleet) during the inspection.

Mechanism: Think out loud.

Paraphrasing Marquet: thinking out loud (informal communication) makes it easier for leaders to let subordinates make decisions because they have more context to understand their decisions. This especially true when thinking out loud combined with the “I Intend” mechanism. In the Navy, thinking out loud clashes with the idea that most, if not all, communication should follow formal patterns.

Thinking out loud not only enables decision making, it provides a platform to share experience and how to process information with others in the organization.

Chapter 15: We Have A Problem

Marquet opens the chapter with the framing question, “Who are your companies inspectors, and how can you use them to best advantage?” 

The chapter begins with an incident, The Santa Fe had a problem when cutting over to use power from the pier. Using power from the pier allows the submarine to shut down the reactor. This a very similar to how airplanes cut over to local power when they park at the gate in an airport. A sailor had not followed procedure. There were no injuries, yet, the incident still required formal reporting to the Fleet Headquarters and the nuclear reactor oversight commission. While the knee-jerk reaction was to deal with the issue quietly (remember the Santa Fe had just gotten an above average rating for the first time) Marquet decided to embrace the oversight the issue was going to generate and to use the inspectors to help the crew learn.

Mechanism: Embrace the inspectors. 

The inspection process provides a platform to disseminate ideas not only throughout the boat but also the whole squadron, to learn from others and to document the issues to improve the ship. Several years ago, I worked with people in Sherbrooke, Quebec to review their organization’s software development processes. We leveraged the CMMI as the inspection framework. Paul and Dominque saw the assessment process as a tool to learn and educate the organization. The outcome of the inspection was not just the report, but rather what they could learn to make the organization better. Marquet’s example of the ultimate embracing of the inspectors is shown when he overheard crew members asking, “I’ve been having a problem with this. What have you seen other ships do to solve it?” As many of us that have been inspectors are aware, many organizations try to hide problems rather than embracing the event as a learning tool.

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 . . .”

Week 9: Up Scope! and ”A New Ship”