Book Cover

This week we tackle chapters 18 and 19 of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! (have you bought your copy?). The two chapters are Underway For San Diego and All Present And Accounted For. The mechanisms in these two chapters focus on building competence.

Chapter 18: Underway For San Diego

The opening question for Chapter 18 is, “How do you get people to think “at the next level?”

The story Marquet uses to illustrate the chapter focuses on the first dive after the Santa Fe completed its maintenance period. The dive did not go as well as expected even though the diving officer of the watch read the process (reading the process is a briefing in Navy speak) out loud during the exercise. A briefing happens as part of each dive. The simulated stuck depth gauge exercise went awry during the dive. At the debrief, after the dive, the sailor that hadn’t responded properly during a simulation of a stuck depth gauge stated that no one listens to the briefings. The reading of the process is tuned out because they already think they know what to do.

Mechanism: Don’t brief, certify.

Briefings, reading the manual, are a passive experience for the participants and are easy to ignore. The briefing in the book has much in common with the motivation posters organizations hang or classes many organizations use to implement process change.  People pay attention for a little while then get bored and move on. Certification, in this scenario, is a process to make sure people that are about to execute a process know what they are about to do and how to do it by asking questions. At the end of the questioning process, a decision is made whether not the team is ready. Certification shifts the onus of preparation onto the participants and gets them directly involved in getting ready to perform an action.

The difference between briefing and certification is important when implementing a process change. I recently facilitated a process improvement session using A3. The implementation plans each team created included deploying new processes. The people that executed the new process had to understand the reason for the process and intimately understand how to perform the actions embedded in the process. They needed to be told, practice and then be tested to ensure they had the knowledge needed to execute the new processes. Agile training that is just reading the slides or a book is a briefing process. Briefings are part of the learning process but theoretical knowledge does not ensure a participant can execute an activity or ceremony.

Chapter 19: All Present And Accounted For

The framing question for this chapter is, “Have you ever thought the people understood what you were talking about only to find out they didn’t “get it“ at all?”

The main story that drives the point of the chapter home is that of “Sled Dog” (a nickname for one of the petty officers on the Santa Fe) going AWOL. Before the incident, the petty officer’s schedules required them to be on watch cadence of six hours on and six hours off continuously. The watch schedule is called a watch bill. The chiefs, the petty officer’s bosses,  did not follow the same schedule. At some point, Sled Dog ended up working 36 hours in a row while his chief was off. I will admit to having lived through this form of scheduling regularly when I was with EDS. Turnover at my location was significant. In Sled Dog’s case the emotional and physical exhaustion caught up with him and he left his post and checked in at the barracks on base (he was absent without leave). Marquet found him, listened to his story without judgment and then decided to give him amnesty. The idea of amnesty was frowned upon by the Chiefs, who thought that not sending a message would cause the AWOL problem to spread. The issue was that when Marquet became captain, the Chiefs committed to helping, protecting and doing what’s right for their men. As some point, they had forgotten that commitment.

Mechanism: Continually and consistently repeat the message.

To correct the inequity, Marquet and his officers invoked a new rule called the watch bill equity. The watch bill equity state that no watch bill for a non-supervisor could be worse than the watch station reporting of their supervisor. In other words, the watch requirements for a petty officer could not be worse than the watch schedule for his or her chief.

Core messages need to be repeated relentlessly and consistently or people will forget.  People forget, not because they intend to wander away from what they are being asked to but because of the immediacy of day-to-day events obscure what is actually important. The process improvement plans noted earlier captured the need for repeating the message by adding the message to each department communication plans.

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”

Week 10: A New Ship and We Have A Problem

Week 11: Mistakes Just Happen and We Learn