BOOKS

Turn the Ship Around

Author: L. David Marquet

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

This was a really spectacular read. It’s very popular around Flatiron School and I can see why it’s so useful. There are many management books but this one provides specific steps that help create a culture of leadership at every tier of your organization.

Marquet calls this organizatoinal mindset “leader-leader” versus “leader-follower:” the model that worked great for the post agrarian era, the era which birthed our understanding of organization and, necessarily, marshalling of men for martial effort. Most Western civilization marks as its beginning of organizational study the Hellene ships sailing to Troy. How true does it ring to managers’ eyes to see that right smack dab in the middle of the pivotal moment, the most capable of soldiers, Achilles, buts heads with his overbearing manager, Menelaus.

In any case, the model of initiative, engagement and flexibility unlocked by the leader-leader model is absolutely the right model for creative knowledge work. Scan my JSON notes below to get a summary, but the story of Marquet’s movement of a bottom-performing sub to a top-performing sub makes this a fun, exciting, and thrilling read.

By turns inspiring, humorous, and touching Marquet makes the stakes of good leadership even more real by emphasizing that organizational dysfunction here doesn’t just result in “The Office” style disaffection and eye-rolling: in $2 billion dollars worth of nuclear-driven power, errors and miscommunication can have disastrous effect.

I know that I’ll sleep better to know that the balance of power is held by a Navy that has integrated the leader-leader model proposed by Marquet.

JSON Notes

{
  "title": "Turn the Ship Around",
  "author": "L. David Marquet (USN RET.)",
  "highlightCount": 36,
  "noteCount": 13,
  "annotations": [
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "Throughout the day, people approached the captain intending to do this or do that.",
      "annotation": "This is the measure of empowerment",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "...wherever I went...I witnessed a dispersed intensity of operations I hadn't expected. The crew was amazingly involved and there was a constant low-level chatter of sharing information.",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "He felt if he required them to own the problem  and the solution to it, they would begin to view themselves as a vitally important link in the chain of command",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "Captain Marquet has coined the phrase ",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "We are in the middle of one of the most profound shifts in human history, where the primary work of mankind is moving fro the Industrial Age of 'control' to the Knowledge worker Age of 'release'",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "Einstein: 'The signifiant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thining we were at when we created them.'",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "Covey: Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.",
      "annotation": "Covey defines leadership",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "It is exactly because the leader-follower way of doing business has been so successful that it is both so appealing and so had to give up...it's optimized fo extracting physical work from humans.",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "The reason for frustrated bosses and half-interested employees is leader-follower which suggests (1) the leader gives power (wrong) (2) creates a cult of personality; this is fixed by leader-leader",
      "annotation": "",
      "location": 0
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "It is preisely teh succcess of the top-down, leader-follower structure that makes it so appealing. As long as you ae measuring performance over just the short run, it can be effective. Officers are rewarded for being indispensable, for being missed after they depart.",
      "location": 15
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "Another factor that maes this leadership approach appealing is the induced numbness. It absolves subordinates of the hard work of thinking, making decisions, and being responsible and accountable. You are ust a cog...",
      "location": 15
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "There's a cost...though...which becomes evident over time...potential is lost as a result of treating people as followers.",
      "location": 15
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "Are you curious? i thought I was being curious during my previous tours; turns out I was only 'questioning.'",
      "annotation": "What a wonderful subtlety",
      "location": 22
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[in questioning] I would have been asking the questions to make sure they knew the equipment. No I was asking questions to make sure I knew the equipment.",
      "location": 23
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "If you walk about your organization talking to people, I'd suggest that you be as curious as possible. As with a good dinner table conversationalist, one question should naturally lead to another. The time to be questioning or even critical is after trust has been established.",
      "location": 26
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "The problem for Santa Fe wasn't an absence of leadership. It was too much leadership of the wrong kind, the leader-follower kind.",
      "annotation": "A check-out ritual means that the super who assigns work, but doesn't check on it is vulnerable to the subs' non-conformance. Moving to leader-leader requires vulnerability and a big bet.",
      "location": 37
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "Mechanism: Achieve Excellence, Don't Just Avoid Errors",
      "annotation": "This is a recurrent theme, when staff are focused on error-avoidance they stop channeling their excellence. CF: Sinek: 'Start with Why'",
      "location": 46
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "...mechanism[s]...to implement leader-leader [are in] three groups: control, competence, clarity",
      "location": 50
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "...lectures about how we should 'work together'...were worse than nothing at all; they sounded hypocritical and ... out of touch",
      "location": 52
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Find the genetic code for control and rewrite it",
      "location": 52
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "The only way [the chiefs] could own leave planning was if they owned the watch, if they owned qualification...it became an iceberg of a responsibility. [Once moved, it took responsibility from the XO]...Therefore, I delegated the control of officer leave to the XO.",
      "annotation": "Often when you find a desire to control one thing you can bundle it with its logical co-travelers. As you divest from upper-management down, you also can move from you to the relieved upper-manager. This became known as 'Chiefs in Charge'",
      "location": 57
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Act your way to new thinking",
      "location": 65
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "...you have...two approaches to choose from: change your own thinking and hope this leads to new behavior, or change your behavior and hope this leads to new thinking",
      "location": 67
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Short, Early Conversations",
      "location": 75
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "On Santa Fe, doing well on inspections was going to be the natural outcome of being excellent, not the goal. Operational and tactical excellence and preparedness for service to the country were what mattered.",
      "location": 79
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "What happens in a top-down culture when the leader is wrong? Everyone goes over the cliff.",
      "location": 81
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: I Intend to.. to Turn Passive Followers into Active Leaders",
      "location": 81
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "...I found myself asking a bunch of questions...",
      "annotation": "With I Intend To...we can ask the sub what they think we are thinking. The will then lean to build this into the report so that we can say 'Very Well'. 'Very Well' response is the privilege sound of having given all the vital details in the report",
      "location": 83
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "As the level of control is divested, it becomes more and more important that the team be aligned with the goal of the organization",
      "location": 88
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Resist the urge to Provide Solutions",
      "location": 91
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "...Cheers in the control room...",
      "annotation": "Funny anecdote about radio antenna jive while about to kill a sub",
      "location": 91
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Eliminate top-down monitoring systems",
      "location": 91
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Think Out Loud",
      "location": 105
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CONTROL] Mechanism: Embrace the Inspectors",
      "location": 111
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "[COMPETENCE] Mechanism: Embrace the Inspectors",
      "annotation": "Inspectors can be advocates of your innovations; they can help you get stronger; don't fear surfacing concerns to them",
      "location": 111
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "[COMPETENCE] Mechanism: Take Deliberate Action",
      "annotation": "Gesture and utter what you're about to do; this seems really hard in terms of getting to port to my field. Reviews are common, but I'm not sure they're applied rigorously.",
      "location": 122
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[COMPETENCE] Mechanism: We Learn",
      "location": 133
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "[COMPETENCE] Mechanism: Don't brief, certify",
      "annotation": "Briefing means that you are rolling out a series of talks that remove the onus of responsibility from the sub. The solution, therefore is to propose the task and then certify that they know how to respond.",
      "location": 138
    },
    {
      "type": "Note",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Continually and Consistently Repeat the Message",
      "annotation": "Just keep repeating what your organization is about and make sure it's genuine and repeated",
      "location": 148
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Specify Goals, Not Methods",
      "location": 159
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Building trust and take care of your people",
      "location": 172
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Use your legacy for inspiration",
      "location": 177
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Use Guiding Principles as a Mechanism for Clarity",
      "location": 182
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Use Immediate Recognition to Enforce Desired Behaviors",
      "location": 186
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Begin with the End in Mind",
      "location": 186
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "[CLARITY] Mechanism: Encourage a Questioning Attitude Over Blind Obedience",
      "location": 200
    },
    {
      "type": "Highlight",
      "highlight": "Don't empower, emancipate",
      "location": 212
    }
  ]
}