Turn the Ship Around Book Summary, by L. David Marquet

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1-Page Summary of Turn the Ship Around


Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek describes how the way we feel is affected by neurochemicals, which can lead to bad decisions. It examines why our bodies aren’t designed to work in today’s world. Ultimately, we need true leaders who know how to navigate us through the current state of affairs so that we can get back on track.

Leadership is important to managers, because it helps them keep their teams focused and on track. However, sometimes strategies that work in one team or organization don’t always translate well to another. If you’re a manager who’s tried different leadership styles but haven’t seen results from your efforts, then maybe it’s time for a change. In this article, we’ll learn about how the author transformed his worst-performing submarine into an effective team by changing his leadership style with these key points:

Marquet learned that when he encouraged others to lead, they performed better and succeeded.

The following points also include the fact that the leadership style used in building Egypt’s pyramids is no longer relevant, because people who are great at inspiring others to follow them need to be more creative. A good leader needs to find ways of creating leaders around him/herself, instead of being a leader per se. Finally, briefing puts people to sleep instead of inspiring them.

Big Idea #1: The United States is facing a crisis of leadership. This is bad news for business because it means that the country will be less competitive in the global economy.

It’s no secret that job satisfaction is low in the United States. In fact, it’s at an all-time low. From 2004 to 2012, less than half of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs; a Conference Board Survey showed worker satisfaction to be its lowest rate ever in 2009.

Productivity has been on a decline in the workplace. This is due to dissatisfaction among employees and other issues.

Times have been tough for the unemployed, as U.S. unemployment has stayed above 9% since April 2009.

The symptoms of the problem are bad. However, we need to figure out where the problem lies before it gets worse. To do this, we must analyze the structure of organizations themselves.

For a long time, we organized our workforces around the leader-follower model. This strategy was used to build the pyramids and also drove the Industrial Revolution. Leaders would make decisions, which were carried out by followers who did physical labor. The leader-follower system is perfect for menial tasks that can be delegated among many workers to increase efficiency. However, many more jobs involve cognitive tasks and decision making that are not suited for a follower workforce at all.

Because of this, the leader-follower approach is inappropriate for today’s times. It was good enough to build pyramids, but not nuclear submarines or businesses! To truly empower employees, we need a new model of leadership. Read on to find out how that works.

Big Idea #2: Everyone should be a leader in their organization. If everyone pitches in, the organization will succeed.

It is clear that our current leadership structure needs a change. So, what are the alternatives? If we want to create an empowered workforce, we should adopt a radically different approach: leader-leader system. This model proves that leadership isn’t just for some special people—it’s something anyone can do. The difference between these two models lies in how decisions are made. In a leader-follower structure, information goes up the chain of command and only once it reaches those at the top does anything happen.

In a leader-leader system, leaders are able to make decisions more quickly because they’re not waiting for approval from higher ups.

For example, a navigator realizes that he’s going to hit shallow water. Instead of alerting his commander first, the navigator takes action and fixes the problem in an efficient manner. This is not hypothetical; it actually happened to the author. The USS Santa Fe was notorious for its poor performance and crew retention rate before a new leader took over as commander. He used a structure called “leader-leader” to make it one of the best submarines in the fleet.

The author’s leadership strategies helped the USS Santa Fe to improve its tactical effectiveness, which led to increased re-enlistments and a trophy for most improved ship in the fleet.

A leader-leader approach is important for an organization to succeed. However, how do you implement it? The following are key points:

Big Idea #3: To make your employees more productive, give them more responsibility.

So, now you know the benefits of a leader-leader approach. You can apply it to your team and make them more effective. However, how do you start? First, you need to rewrite your company’s DNA by ensuring that decisions are made by employees and that this is sustainable. To do so, as a manager, give up some power because change cannot happen without giving it up first.

The USS Santa Fe allowed the chief to have more power by moving it down the chain of command. The author talked with each chief to learn how he could empower them.

The chiefs wanted more responsibility for their men. This included the ability to approve leave time, which previously involved going through several different officers.

The author gave his bosses more power to approve leave so that they could be held responsible for the performance of their teams. This made them more passionate about improving efficiency and led them to take charge of doing so overall.

However, simply reassigning responsibility isn’t the only way to empower a workforce. In fact, the USS Santa Fe made use of a simple three-word phrase: “I intend to…”

For instance, a navigator can make the decision to change his course and instead of informing the captain about this he could simply say that he’ll alter his path. This way, the captain will quickly approve it by saying “go ahead”.

We’ve seen that leaders need to pass control down the chain of command in order to be effective. However, other factors are needed for a leader-leader system to exist and thrive.

Next, we’ll discover the pillars of competence and clarity. They are very important because…

Big Idea #4: When you give employees more responsibility, it’s also important to ensure that they can handle it.

Giving employees more responsibility can be risky. You know that it’s empowering, but are you sure they’ll be able to handle it?

You can make sure employees are competent by having them take action on their jobs.

A crew member once broke protocol on the USS Santa Fe, by shutting off a circuit breaker too early. The captain wanted to ensure this would not happen again. He didn’t believe that more training or supervision was necessary because the crewmember accepted his mistake and he had already put those systems in place. Instead, he decided to implement a policy of deliberate action where everyone pauses before they do something and vocalizes what they’re doing and gestures toward it.

People who are better at taking action are more successful. They can reduce errors and make sure that others know what to do, so they don’t have to worry about making mistakes. This was true for the USS Santa Fe’s nuclear reactor operations as well as other tasks on the ship. The crew of the ship also had a new procedure when assigning tasks: instead of just giving information, they would ask questions about how competent someone is with their task assignment. If an answer wasn’t good enough, then the person wouldn’t be certified in doing that job; otherwise, they were certified and could take on that responsibility.

The leader-leader structure on the USS Santa Fe boosted both employee satisfaction and performance. To do this, they gave more power to their leaders, which in turn allowed them to empower their employees. This was crucial because it brought out the best in everyone involved.

Big Idea #5: Businesses need to be clear about their goals in order to succeed.

In a leader-leader organization, everyone has power to make decisions. It’s important that every employee is on the same page and working toward the same goal. How do you ensure this?

To keep your organization united and productive, it’s vital that core values are upheld. One way to do this is to inspire employees with the company’s legacy or history. For example, the crew of the USS Santa Fe emphasized their role in serving and protecting America by making an announcement when they passed a sunken U.S. submarine.

Corporations can also inspire their employees by using the company’s legacy. Apple, for example, holds conferences in which they emphasize “thinking differently,” a philosophy that reinforces original thinking as a corporate and personal goal in the minds of Apple employees.

Core values can be strengthened by rewarding employees who live up to them. However, it’s hard for companies to give immediate praise because of administrative issues.

One of the most important things to remember on a ship is that you need to recognize success immediately. If someone does something great, like avoiding a disaster, it should be announced to their division right away so they can reinforce values and core beliefs.

Rewards are important to an organization’s productivity. A company that encourages employees to compete against each other will not be as productive as a company that pits them against nature. An example of the latter would be rewarding workers when their stock price surpasses that of a competitor.

The USS Santa Fe is a great example of how the leader-leader approach can increase productivity and empower workers by changing our perception of leadership. If organizations everywhere took steps toward establishing a new leader-leader dynamic, just imagine how much success we could achieve!

Full Summary of Turn the Ship Around

How Bosses Kill Motivation

Most people enter new jobs with a lot of energy and an eagerness to be successful. They have innovative ideas that they want to share, but their supervisors tell them not to rock the boat. As a result, employees become depressed cynics who just go through the motions at work because they feel like there’s no point in trying anymore. This leads to disengagement between bosses and employees, which costs businesses billions of dollars per year because it affects how efficiently their teams are able to perform tasks. Since Captain L. David Marquet was once in charge of running submarines for the US Navy (and is also a business school professor), he knows all about this kind of disengagement from his experiences as both a boss and an employee himself.

The Navy’s leadership style also contributes to disenchantment. The Navy divides people into leaders and followers, but that’s not the best way to lead. This traditional model of leader-follower is bad for intellectual work because it encourages blind obedience rather than thinking independently. Some leaders avoid this problem by offering employees empowerment – giving them limited control over their own decisions for a short period of time – but that only reminds people how little power they actually have in the organization.

Everyone’s a Leader

As the captain of a nuclear submarine, Marquet had to replace leader-follower management with leader-leader. This system was developed based on treating everyone as a leader, which made the crew more efficient and productive. Leader-leader organizations are also more resilient than others. The USS Santa Fe is unforgiving due to its tight deadlines, but hierarchy is unavoidable in this environment; it’s just how hierarchy is used that can be shaped differently from other hierarchies. Onboard the ship, Marquet pushed authority for making decisions toward the bottom instead of at the top where information originates and pushes up to leadership for direction.

When Marquet took command of the Santa Fe, it was one of the worst-performing submarines in the fleet. It had a terrible retention rate and became infamous for an embarrassing photo that showed crew members not paying attention to their duties. However, within a year of taking over as its captain, he turned it into one of the best-performing submarines in many categories—including reenlistment rates.

Before Deploying

Submarines are a vital part of the Navy. They can operate at sea for six months without returning to their home ports, and they may travel more than 30,000 miles during that time. This is because submarines often go where other ships cannot go—they’re ready to fight in “hostile waters.”

In December 1998, 25 days before he officially assumed command of the submarine, Marquet first boarded it. The crew’s attitude made a strong impression on him. He knew that they were constantly reminded about how their sub had the worst reputation in the fleet and how humiliated they felt because of it.

Despite having limited technical knowledge about the ship’s sophisticated systems, Captain Marquet was able to discover a better approach. He asked his men what they wanted him to do and not do. With their answers, he was able to figure out what changes needed to be made for the ship’s success in its deployment.

Marquet also asked them what they secretly hoped he would change as captain of the ship and what their biggest frustrations were about how it was currently run.

The Minimum Required

To understand the submarine crew’s responsibilities, he had to be brought around and introduced. He learned that they were very concerned about making mistakes, which biased them towards waiting for orders instead of taking initiative.

A conversation between a captain and his crew member deeply disturbed the captain. The man was asked what his job was, and he replied that it depended on orders from those above him. This response insulted the captain’s honesty because it suggested that the sailor did not take responsibility for his work or actions.

When Marquet took over the Santa Fe, he found that most of his crew felt they were trapped. Their work was riddled with errors due to stress and low morale. This led to a bad attitude among the workers, who didn’t take initiative to improve their situation.

Marquet had a lot of work ahead of him on the Santa Fe.

The New Commanding Officer

On January 8, 1999, Captain Marquet took command of the Santa Fe (a nuclear submarine). He planned to change how information moved on his ship by keeping it close to the crew level. This plan was different from the strategy used in Navy ships because normally information is passed up the chain of command, but he wanted to keep decision making at a lower level than usual so that everyone could contribute and benefit from each other’s ideas. The goal was for every member of his crew to be excellent instead of just reducing errors.

When he took command of the Santa Fe, Marquet changed the way power worked on his ship. Traditionally in the navy, “the chiefs run the Navy,” and that’s how he wanted things to work onboard his ship. To give them more authority, Marquet changed a regulation so that only they could authorize vacation for their sailors. Previously this was done by second-in-command officers who were not as close to their crews as chiefs are. Now it would be up to enlisted men to get permission from their chiefs before taking time off from work. This gave them great influence over what happens onboard ships because people need time off sometimes when they’re stuck on a ship for months at a time without getting shore leave or going home. In exchange for giving up some control over vacations, chiefs agreed to take responsibility for performance in their divisions which included everything important about how Santa Fe operated like watch bills (what shifts people are working), training school enrollments (how well trained everyone is) and qualification schedules (when crew members can go home).

“Chiefs in Charge”

The Navy has changed the way they run their ships. They have put the chiefs in charge of each ship, rather than having them report to an officer. This change greatly improved performance because it gave authority directly to those who were accountable for getting work done and it also allowed them to communicate better with their sailors.

Marquet also changed the way sailors greeted people as they boarded the Santa Fe. They had to say “Good morning, Commodore Kenny, my name is Petty Officer Jones. Welcome aboard Santa Fe” instead of just saying “Good morning.” He also made short conversations with them so that he could give them a perspective and help clarify their role in what they were doing.

“I Intend To”

One of the ways that Marquet changed how he led his team was by getting them to say “I intend to” and then explain what they were going to do. He stopped giving explicit orders, but instead let his subordinates develop their own plans for each part of the project and decide whether or not they would be able to complete it.

For example, a captain might say, “I intend to submerge the ship. We are in water assigned to Santa Fe, water depth has been checked by my crew, all men are below and have been instructed on how to dive the ship safely. I’ve certified my watch team and we’re ready for you to let us know when it’s okay for us to submerge.” And Marquet would respond “Very well”. This seemingly minor change in conversational style shifted ownership of the decision making process from the captain down his chain of command.

Initially, Marquet didn’t ask questions to his subordinates. This dynamic prompted them to communicate their thoughts and explain their thought process up front. They had to consider the action as if they were the commander of the ship. Rather than one officer thinking, one leader giving orders, now there were 135 independent thinkers committed to completing a task in any way possible.

No “Top-Down Monitoring”

At first, the Santa Fe relied on a “tickler system” that was a check on all tasks. The officers kept their reports in binders in the executive officer’s stateroom. Every week, they held tickler meetings to go over each operation or project and categorize what needed to be done and what hadn’t been done yet.

When the crew of a ship found out that their superiors were monitoring and evaluating their performance, they lost confidence in themselves. The tickler system made them feel like they didn’t own their jobs. So, Captain Marquet got rid of the tickler system and put department heads in control of their departments so they could focus on doing good work instead of cataloging tasks to be done later by others.

Another innovation that Marquet introduced was to encourage people to talk informally. This went against the standard system of communication, which is more formal and discourages chatting. But too much information can be just as bad as not enough. Good decisions require context, so it’s better to have a lot than not enough.

“Deliberate Action”

When things go wrong, people often say that it was just an accident. However, if the crew doesn’t pay attention and acts automatically without thinking about what they’re doing, then problems can arise. For example, a valve could be opened or closed by mistake when someone is in a rush to do something else. This leads to unforeseen consequences like an emergency situation on board the submarine.

After a crew member made a mistake, the captain of the ship didn’t punish him. Instead, he instituted a policy called deliberate action that required people to say what they were about to do before actually doing it. This prevented them from acting on autopilot and making mistakes because they weren’t paying attention. The introduction of this policy was “the single most powerful mechanism” for eliminating mistakes and increasing excellence.

From Worst to Best

The Santa Fe was the worst submarine in the US Navy, but it turned into one of its best. It developed a lot of leaders and became a leader-leader ship. This strategy is now used to develop more leaders for the US Navy’s submarines.

Turn the Ship Around Book Summary, by L. David Marquet

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