Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Be the change you want to see in the Navy !!

Even in our great Navy, bureaucracy is like the icy surface that glazes over a frigid ocean. Even the smallest of  cracks in the ice can provide enough space for a ship to pass - certainly enough room for a Staff Action Officer to get through. When you sit still, you risk getting stuck. But if you gradually break up the ice as you go, you can keep moving forward. Rather than surrender to bureaucracy, take it upon yourself to break it.

In subzero waters, icebreaker ships rely on a specially designed steel hull to plow forward. In the climate-controlled spaces of our staff offices, we can rely on a different weapon: The persistent question.  Ask it!

Try breaking up the ice with questions like:
  • "Why does it feel like we are having the same meeting and discussion, over and over again?"
  • "Why don't we just try it and see what happens?"
  • "Specifically what (or who) is getting in the way of us making a decision?"
  • "When exactly will we have a final answer on this?"
You don't have to be the Admiral to ask these questions. On the contrary, they are best asked by the staff action officers tasked with operations and execution.
Rather than surrender to bureaucracy, take it upon yourself to break it.
Breaking up the ice is a painful responsibility, but the Sailor who does it is the person who enables the ship to pass, the action officer who moves the entire project forward.

For the sake of empowering the Navy to make great ideas happen, I make this plea:
  • Be the person who asks the annoying questions.
  • Don't try to get everyone to agree. Instead, put people on the spot to share their objections.
  • When there is ambiguity about the next step, call it out!  Your boss will be glad you did.  Your peers will admire you.  Your wife will beam in your presence.  Your dog will get you the paper.  Life will be good.

(Scott Belsky, in particular).

You can find them HERE.


CTA1 Tracy Johnson, USNR(Ret.) said...

That's how I retired from the Navy Reserve crypto community as an E-6 also after 30 years. I had no reservations about breaking the ice in the wardroom or even the Chief's mess. The proverb apparently rings true, a prophet (or evangelist) is not without honour, save in his own country. Which is probably why I was awarded three Army Decorations, and one Navy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service CTA1 Johnson!

Maxine Teller said...

Excellent sentiment. Thanks for writing this. Also, don't be afraid to utilize outside parties to help strategically push your message and ideas. Oftentimes insiders are more apt to listen to the ideas of outsiders than to the ideas of their own subordinates. Moving the agenda forward is more important than the glory. In this new age, information does not equal power -- information-sharing multiplies power.