For much of the 20th century, “leadership” in the Navy has meant “control.” Senior Navy leaders established formal structures and processes. They handed Sailors detailed instructions and specifications that directed them to perform specific tasks in a precise manner. Ships, squadrons and commands operated in well-defined stovepipes and their processes/systems were very hierarchical.
These organizations no longer operate in the same way they did during the last century. Today’s Sailors have different expectations than did Sailors of their parents' and grandparents' generation when they served. The world is more complex. and so is the Navy. Sustained performance improvement in the Navy can be achieved only by seeing and managing interrelationships across the entire enterprise, rather than by asserting and hoping for linear cause and effect.
Arie de Geus, former coordinator of strategic planning at Royal Dutch Shell, published an article in the Harvard Business Review in 1988 called Planning as Learning, in which he proposed that the ability to continually rethink one’s purpose and methods was not just a valuable technique, but the single factor most responsible for competitive advantage. As long as the Navy possesses the ability to innovate and to develop its Sailors, it would always remain one jump ahead of their competitors. This is the essence of strategic management.
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