Turn the Ship Around! (or any other type of organization)

In my current engagement I came across the ideas of David Marquet, a captain in the US Navy with interesting ideas about leadership. He isn’t the first articulating these kind of ideas but his context is unique as a nuclear submarine is an unlikely environment for a social experiment. Moving from a leader-follower culture to a leader-leader culture can be a challenge in any organization. This is even more so in the military where hierarchy is engrained in the DNA of all stakeholders. Marquet wrote a great book about what he achieved during his command of the USS Sante Fe: ‘Turn the Ship Around!‘.

Leadership is for everyone

To some extent, Marquet is forced into his experiment by the circumstances. He finds himself as the commanding officer of a ship that he hardly knows. From previous experience I recognize the challenges he describes in working with a range of different experts that are all your superior when it comes to knowledge and experience in their specific tasks. In such a set-up, the classical ‘command & control’ is probably the worst possible management model. To his credit, Marquet sets his Navy-default-behaviour aside and quite literary goes on a journey with his crew. Where other authors sometimes leave you with questions and doubts, this book is very specific in its examples and provides both the leading principles and the step-by-step implementation of the leader-leader concept. And I learned quite a lot about submarines as well.

Similar ambition, different approach

It is not just submarine captains that have challenges engaging their staff. When Vineet Nayar took over as the CEO from HCL in 2007, he came up with a concept ‘Employees First, Customers Second‘. The performance of HCL since then is a testimony of the impact of his approach. A more recent example is illustrated by Frederic Laloux in his book ‘Reinventing Organizations‘. One of the examples (‘Buurtzorg’ in the Netherlands) is very close to home. Simon Sinek says you have to ‘Start With Why‘ and in his case he talks about millennials instead of sailors but the line of thinking is very similar again. Most likely he is in full agreement with the Dutch author Wouter Hart (‘Verdraaide Organisaties‘) who wants to turn organizations around by putting the meaning front and centre of everything that happens.

All off these books share an ambition and a common direction. Another commonality is that they have been included in the 2iQ library of recommended books. To be completely honest my reason for sharing is kind of selfish. Every time I suggest books to friends and co-workers I receive some exciting recommendations in return. My reading back-log is declining so I will be happy with any new suggestions!