Book Cover

Turn the Ship Around


I forecast, barring any huge incidents, that we will complete our re-read of Turn The Ship Around on 22 July, 2018.  The next book in the series will be The Checklist Manifesto  (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along) by  Atul Gawande. Today we tackle two more chapters in L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!  


Chapter 26: Combat Effectiveness

The question that opens this chapter is “Are you looking for resilience in your organization?”

Resilience is defined as the ability to recover or spring back into shape. The chapter starts with a story of the Santa Fe firing her practice torpedo at the Olympia.  The reappearance of the Olympia brings the journey that Marquet has described during the introduction of the leader-leader model nearly back to square one. During the practice run, the crew exhibited a number of the mechanisms in the leader-leader model. Two of the mechanisms included using WWII lingo (embrace your legacy) and stating intended actions before you execute them (deliberate action). The Santa Fe was running like a well-oiled machine.  The re-enlistment statistics, which were excellent, were further evidence of how well the Santa Fe was running.

After the combat effectiveness exhibition, the scene changes to another exercise in which the Santa Fe deployed a group of Navy SEALs and is waiting to pick them up from their mock mission.  Marquet tours the boat while waiting to recover the SEALs, Marquet list the actions the crew has taken without being ordered ranging from prepping hot food to setting up an operating room just in case any of the SEALs have been injured.  Another reflection of the leader-leader model. During Marquet’s retrospective, a yellow sounding warning occurs (yellow sounding warning means the water is quickly becoming too shallow).

Mechanisms: Encourage a questioning attitude over blind obedience.

When Marquet reaches the bridge, he hears the officer on deck (OOD) order the boat forward ⅓ which he believes is exactly the wrong direction for the ship to be going. What ensues is Marquet shouting that they need to “back” (go backward) only to be told that he is wrong by the OOD (Sled Dog from earlier exploits).  Marquet instead of reacting takes a few seconds to assess the situation and recognizes that the boat is pointed in the opposite direction that he had anticipated. Had Sled Dog blindly followed his command and not told him he was wrong, the SEALs may not have found the submarine or worse. A questioning attitude typically wins over blind obedience.

Chapter 27: Homecoming

The framing question for this chapter is, “Do you have the fortitude to go against the grain?”

Chapter 27 takes the Santa Fe back to Pearl Harbor and the chapter provides a summary of the pieces-parts that make the leader-leader model work. Marquet uses the story of Stephen Covey’s visit to the Santa Fe as the basis for the summary. Marquet walks through a long list of improvements for Covey.  The chart on page 205 provides a visual comparison between the leader-leader model and standard leader-follower models. This chart is useful for driving home an understanding of the sharp differences in the model that might have been lost. On Page 206 Marquet provides another summary table, listing all of the mechanisms that make up the leader-leader model. Personally, I have transposed the table and keep it in my office to reflect on as I interact with people. Everyone is a leader and can utilize the ideas and concepts in the leader-leader model. The mechanisms are broken into the three legs of the model; control, confidence, and clarity.

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

A sad note before I leave you for the week: many of you in the agile and process improvement worlds know Will McKnight.  Will and I worked together off and on over the years on assessment and organizational transformations (we also hung out and talked and talked and talked).  On June 25th Will died in a motorcycle accident. Will was the first person I interviewed on the SPaMCAST. We sat in two different hotel rooms and Sherbrooke, Quebec and recorded the interview.  He let me work out a lot of the kinks. He was a good friend and mentor. I will miss him. If you want to hear WIll’s voice again check out SPaMCAST 1,  SPaMCAST 2 and SPaMCAST 222.