Book Cover

The poll for the next book in the re-read series will run for one more weekend!  The Checklist Manifesto is in first place, but Marcus Hammarberg’s Salvation:The Bungu Story (agile in the real world) is a close second place!

This week we are all ahead full in our re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!  We dive into chapters 24 and 25, which are titled: A Dangerous Passage and Looking Ahead.  

Chapter 24: A Dangerous Passage

The opening question for this chapter is, “Do you recognize your staff’s achievements so long after the event that even they forget?”  

Marquet uses the story of the Santa Fe’s transit of the Strait of Malacca to drive home multiple points in this chapter.  The Strait of Malacca is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world (link to Google Map). A mistake during a transit can be disastrous not only for the ships involved but to the commerce of the world.  During the Santa Fe’s transit (which had to be made on the surface), the Santa Fe nearly ran into the tow line between a tug and a barge.  The outcome of colliding with the tow line potentially would have cost lives, significant damage, and would have ended Marquet’s career (the captain is ALWAYS responsible).  In this case, however, one of the junior officers noticed what was happening and immediately gave the order “for all back emergency, right hard rudder.” The officer, by not waiting for permission, saved the day. This was the same person that caused the problem back in week 10!  The same person that in the past would have been put in front of the “Captain’s Mast” and disciplined if Marquet had not been following the leader-leader model.  In this case, Marquet recognized the sailor on the spot, giving him the Navy Achievement Medal. Following up with the slow bureaucratic paperwork and the formal notification later.

Mechanism: Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviors.

Note:  If this seems like a difficult concept to think about, I would recommend reading the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard (originally published in 1982)

Simply put, don’t let the administrative process get in the way of progress.  It is too easy to let the process and blockers get in the way of recognition. I have a marvelous standard poodle, Jax.  Jax sometimes does things that aren’t exactly what I want. Once he ate an angel food cake and a loaf of bread while I was on a webinar.  An hour later, when I discovered the disaster, punishing him would have had little impact because he would not have seen the connection. Similarly, a friend received a service award for going out of his way to satisfy a customer eleven months after it happened.  The award was cool but did not closely link behavior to feedback (actually he was surprised since there had been no feedback in the intervening period of time). Feedback needs to be provided as close to the behavior as absolutely possible to ensure everyone is clear about the behavior the organization is expecting.

Chapter 25: Looking Ahead

The opening question is “Are you mired in short-term thinking?”

For the story in this chapter, Marquet goes back to explain how and why the Santa Fe was ready to deploy two weeks early.  Typically in the two weeks before deployment, a submarine would be on stand down (well at least on paper). In real life even though the boat would be put into stand down status no one would be able to go on leave because of the huge amount of tasks to be completed before deployment. Marquet wanted to be able to let the crew go on leave prior to deployment. Everyone on the boat was enlisted to work out a plan and then execute so that the two weeks off could really be a stand down. Unfortunately, the Santa Fe received orders from Fleet Command for an emergency deployment, quoting Marquet, “the nation needed the Santa Fe to deploy early.” Had the Santa Fe not begun with an end in mind (being able to stand down) they would not have been able to answer the call to arms. Remember that at the beginning of the story, no one would have asked the Santa Fe if they could deploy early.

Mechanism: Begin with the end in mind.

Building on the success of beginning with the end in mind, Marquet adopted a practice of mentoring one key supervisor a day. The meeting focused only on long-term issues. The premortem technique of documenting the end of tour awards was useful to get the supervisors to begin with the end in mind. On page 192 Marquez lists seven items that are helpful in terms of how, to begin with, the end in mind including re-reading or reading chapter 2 of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (this link is to our re-read of the book).

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