Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Examining The Leadership Crisis Further

Navy Times examines the "loss of confidence" phenomenon among Navy Commanding Officers. Their editorial picks up on many themes expressed in this blog over the past year. There is no question but that some of these officers should never have "enjoyed" their seniors' confidence in the first place. Not every officer is cut out for command. Many more officers are not deserving in the first place.

As the Navy Times states, "Adultery, drunkenness, sexual harassment and lying aren’t failings that rear their head only late in life; they are more typically habits forged early on, during the rise through the ranks." And, if we're honest with ourselves in the process of selecting these individuals, we know this in advance. These officers should never have been selected for command in the first place. Truth be told, for some officer communities in the Navy, formal command screening boards are a relatively new development.

Recommendations from the Navy Times Editorial includes the suggestion that "The Navy can do three things to try to solve this problem:
Use shame as a deterrent. A 2007 Fleet Forces Command Inspector General report on com­mand firings recom­mended wider pub­lic release of basic facts relating to these cases, so that examples could be made of officers who flouted the rules or made egre­gious errors. The idea was dismissed at the time as “not warranted.” It should be imple­mented today.
Show the total officer to command screening boards. The officers who select future COs get plenty of official information, including fitness reports and assignment histories, on every candidate. What they don’t get to see is how this officer is viewed by his peers and subordinates. Full 360-degree peer reviews would provide a clearer picture than anything else as to how an offi­cer will be viewed by subordi­nates if given the chance to com­mand.
Lengthen command tours. The opportunity to take command is a privilege, reserved for the most capable officers. Longer tours would reduce the number of com­manding officers needed, raising the bar for getting selected, and allowing boards to more thor­oughly scrutinize candidates.

The Navy’s record on com­manding officers isn’t bad. But it could be (much) better. It’s time to reassess and improve the com­manding officer selection process, to ensure only those most worthy get the opportunity."

THE NAVY WILL HAVE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION AS TO WHETHER IT CAN LIVE WITH THE ACCEPTABILITY OF FIRING ONE COMMANDING OFFICER A MONTH FOR THE REST OF TIME OR WHETHER IT WILL TAKE POSITIVE ACTION TO CHANGE THAT OUTCOME. NAVY HAS "TOLERATED" THIS SITUATION FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS - SO IT IS APPARENT THAT IT'S ACCEPTABLE. OR IS IT? THE ANSWER WILL TELL US VOLUMES ABOUT OUR LEADERSHIP.

Admiral Robert Natter says, "You can't make exceptions with people in authority, especially for commanding officers. Occasionally, I could make an exception for young seamen because the ramifications of their actions are totally different. You expect young kids to get in trouble. But not someone responsible for 300 people."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

On one side there is a push to tell leadership to move past the "zero defect" mentality...and then there is a press for zero defects...

Why is 98-99% success rate not good enough?

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

When you are talking about Navy Commanding Officers (afloat and ashore) ZERO DEFECTS is the only acceptable standard where issues of character are concerned. I don't think there are many in the Navy who have a problem with "honest" mistakes. In the case of the Commanding Officers described in the Editorial or the article, none were fired for "honest" mistakes. I think every officer has a story about how they overcame an honest (and sometimes very embarrassing) mistake. When I was an Ensign, I lost a prisoner who was under escort out of the country. In theory, I could have been made "an example" for the other JOs in our wardroom. Fortunately, our XO - MAD DOG Murphy and our OIC took pity on me. I was the butt of many wardroom jokes...and survived. Later, I assumed command from an interim CO who had relieved an officer that had been relieved for cause (2 failed IG inspections). It took me 2 years to get the command back on an even keel. A bad CO can do lasting damage to a command, its reputation and its Sailors. The recovery process is long and hard. Our Sailors deserve the best the Navy has to offer when it comes to our Commanding Officers.

Anonymous said...

The article details the relief of officers over a 10 year period which is far, far more than the handful of stories detailed. The issue of relieving them is not at question...the issue of whether the leadership has an acceptable rate of failure when 1-2% of commanding officers are relieved.

While it's nice in some worlds to think that we can reach a point wherein perfection is achieved...is perfection truly achievable? In discussing this article, many latch onto the character flaws, or command climate issues that lead to relief...but even if we removed those possibilities from contention, if every single commanding officer was a perfect lady o r gentleman, there would still be the occasional relief for an operational incident...a Port Royal, Arthur W Radford, San Francisco, Belknap, and so on.

Why press the leadership to better an already exceptional track record on choosing commanding officers?

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Being the simple minded person that I am, I took that point of view that - If you know you can do better, why not do better? The Navy can do better. And, because, we can - we should.

Anonymous said...

And that, because we can do better we should, is where "zero defect" came from.

At some point the cost of "doing better" is prohibitive.

LBRM CEO said...

I am a nonprofit CEO and two of my favorite leadership books are "It's Your Ship" and "Get Your Ship Togther," by Capt. D. Michael Abrashaff. I think they should be required reading . . .