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  • Category Archives: Organizational Transformation

    The Nuclear Way: Submarine Leadership Challenges

    How would you adjust to transferring from a self contained organization with a command and control leadership style to one with a distributed leadership style? How would you adapt? How would you prepare? And how would you be received?

    This is exactly what happened to me when I reported to be the Chief Engineer onboard the USS Santa Fe, a fast-attack, nuclear submarine based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

    At this point in my career, I had been in the Navy for over 8 years, passed numerous training schools, exams and interviews on submarining and nuclear power, but had not stepped foot on a submarine in over 3 years. In between submarine assignments, the Navy sends officers to a wide variety of shore assignments where we are able to recharge and experience other areas of the military before heading back to an operational submarine. In my previous submarine assignment, I was a division officer in charge of 15 sailors. Now, I was going back as a department head and would be the third highest-ranking officer onboard. It was going to be a tremendous responsibility and by far the most challenging, rewarding, and educational job I have had. While the Navy had done a lot to ensure I was ready for this assignment, a lot had changed since the last time I was onboard a submarine and one of the biggest differences was leadership style.

    ORGANIZATION
    A submarine’s organizational structure is similar to many other organizations. The diagram below outlines our organizational structure and common business equivalents.

    In addition to running a division or department, officers are responsible for standing watch. This consists of various watch stations across the boat where each officer or sailor is responsible for specific operations for 8 hours a day while the ship is underway. For me, standing watch meant being the Officer of the Decks (OOD). As OOD I was the Captain’s direct representative –responsible to drive and fight the ship while on mission with the support of nearly 30 watch standers across the submarine. While learning to implement submarine tactics as OOD is challenging, learning to consistently lead a team of 30 sailors and keep them engaged and proficient was far more difficult. This is where the shift in leadership style from command and control to distributive pays off.

    CHANGE CAUSE
    During my 3 years away from submarining the leadership philosophy had changed significantly. In late 2012 through early 2013 the submarine force dealt with a series of significant mishaps, a few of which resulted in collisions, millions of dollars in repairs and multiple years in lost operational time. Extensive investigations revealed cultural problems, among other issues, as leading

    contributors for these mishaps. Many of these leadership styles were command-and-control oriented where complete trust was placed in the senior officers with little room for backup or recommendations from lower level sailors. This led to poor team dynamics and organization throughout the submarine. As a result of these investigations, the submarine force shifted its leadership training to teach officers a more distributive leadership style.

    The education level of sailors entering the Navy was also a contributing factor. Many of the sailors I worked with had college degrees and most had at least some college experience. This, in addition to the nearly 18 months of training that all nuclear operators receive prior to assignment, meant that sailors needed and desired to be engaged and contribute to the overall mission of the submarine. Most were motivated by feeling that they contributed to the team and affected positive change rather than by money or awards. Ensuring that leaders harnessed this energy and prevented stagnation within the team was a large driver for the Navy’s shift in leadership style.

    COMMAND-AND-CONTROL STYLE
    Under the previous command-and-control leadership style, officers are taught to take charge – “You are in charge, people look to you for the expertise and direction.” In the old style, for example, an officer may have received a course change recommendation from a junior sailor and, rather than following the recommendation exactly, the officer would demonstrate proper decision-making ability by coming up with a better course. This was thought to show proper command-and-control to ensure everyone respected the officer’s decision. However, it had the unintended consequence of undermining recommendations from the crew, which led to many crewmembers shutting down—knowing their recommendations would not be utilized.

    The same went for managing a department of over 70 sailors. In my job as Chief Engineer, I was responsible for the creation of the training schedules, maintenance plans and operational plans implemented by the engineering department. In my previous tour, the Chief Engineer personally developed all these plans and the junior officers and sailors carried out his direction. While it was less work for the mid-level managers, it also reduced our buy-in with decisions and led to decreased creative thinking for solving issues. In addition, it undermined the ability and morale of other sailors and officers onboard who felt that they had a lot to contribute and could have provided many good ideas about how to run the ship.

    DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP
    When I walked onboard to relieve as Chief Engineer in my new role, I noticed a stark change in the leadership styles onboard and saw an increased level of responsibility at lower levels. While it was ultimately my responsibility to run the Engineering department or drive the ship while standing watch, I received many more recommendations from junior sailors who were not afraid to give their opinion. No longer was the OOD alone trying to make decisions with minimal input from the team. Frequently, I did not have the best answer, but generally knew someone on my team who did. I started to brief my watch team about what I was planning, what information I needed and possible decisions I would have to make. Sometimes, these briefs would be long and stream-of-consciousness like, but it kept everyone on the same page and all of the watch standers knew what I was thinking and the decisions of the team. Over time, informed recommendations were starting to pour in to me from all members of the team. Watch team members were sharing recommendations backed up by a thought process, known information and a timeline for action. These decision-making loops would range in length from a few seconds in highly stressful missions to hours, or even days, as we sought to best position the submarine for long-term missions. The active participation of the watch team led to increased commitment and engagement from sailors at every level.

    When entering my job as Chief Engineer, I was accustomed to a command-and-control leadership style where the person in charge came up with training plans, attempted to deconflict maintenance items and developed process improvement with little to no input from others. While some of the actions done in this manner were effective, I would frequently get push back from team members who had other, often better ideas. Top down driven plans received more opposition and many team members quickly voiced their frustration with their lack of input into the overall direction of the department. In order to incorporate and synthesize different ideas across the department, I quickly adapted and changed to a distributed leadership style. In meetings, I started by posing a question such as “how can we get better at this maintenance process”. Many had different and better ideas than I would have come up with on my own and we attempted to utilize these ideas—leading to a sense of ownership and responsibility to fix problems from the bottom up. The key here was to quickly show everyone on the team that the organization was utilizing recommendations based on their quality rather than the position of the individual who recommended it.

    Overall, the shift within the submarine force from directive to distributed leadership has led to greater engagement from crew members who feel their ideas could be implemented organization-wide. This led to better team dynamics and has allowed a very complex, high paced and highly technical environment to move more smoothly. Having a shift of this magnitude within the Navy is a daunting task, since it can takes years to institute a change in leadership training and practice. Unlike the corporate world, new middle and upper level managers are not brought in from the outside. The Navy must work with the leaders they have in the pipeline to institute this change. Sometimes, changes receive strong pushback from those who have spent their careers in a command-and-control environment. Utilizing strong champions for a policy change at different levels of the organization is key to initiating the policy and maintaining the new, distributed leadership style.

    Using the distributed leadership mentality within a small team or large organizations can greatly increase the morale, contribution and engagement from all members—ultimately leading to better results from the entire team. The key takeaways that I gained from my change in leadership style in my job as Chief Engineer are:

    1. Don’t give your opinion or decision about a certain issue or problem initially. This may cause some to simply fall in line behind your decision due to your seniority within the organization, or automatically oppose the idea because of the same reason. Instead, pose the question or problem and let the team have an open discussion without your initial influence.
    2. Help frame the reference of the problem and define different directions the team could take based on the conversations. It is ok to have “stream of consciousness” discussions with the team—letting them know what information you have, what information you need and different possible directions the team could take while allowing leeway for alternative solutions.
    3. If someone expresses passion about solving a problem, it is generally better to let them implement it with supervision. While it is tempting to try and put your mark on it or tweak it based on your ideas, it helps to let them solve it. Even if it may not be as effective as one of your ideas, it will show the team you are willing to listen and implement their ideas fully. This will increase engagement and contribution from all team members, now that they know they will be heard.
    4. Give small corrections early, if necessary. Do not wait until the very end to sit down with a team member and provide any corrections that may be required. Nothing will frustrate them more than putting a lot of effort into solving a problem than having to go back and rework something that could have been solved earlier in the process and prevented a lot of rework.

    If implemented correctly within your organization, this can free up a lot of your time as a manager and increase the productivity of the team.

     

    Podcast: Navigating the Current of Decentralizing Leadership in a Nuclear Sub

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    Paul Colwell, a dynamic and collaborative leader in high stress and highly technical environments, meets with Podcast host David Lee. Discussed in this podcast is Colwell’s experience as a Naval Nuclear Submarine Officer and the contrasting styles of leadership he experienced from a centralized submarine to de-centralized one. Colwell examines his direct exposure with the Navy’s decision to elevate to a Responsive, adaptive leadership environment that encourages flexibility fit for unpredictable conditions.  This shift allowed Colwell to experience the interworkings of a truly Responsive organization in the high-risk environment of a Nuclear Submarine.

    The book “Turn the Ship Around” by Captain David Marquet is discussed as well as Colwell’s personal experiences that relate to the book’s concepts. In “Turn the Ship Around” Captain David Marquet imagines a workplace where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work—a place where everyone is a leader. Colwell expands on his similar experience with the Responsive environment brought into the Naval Forces. (View https://www.davidmarquet.com/our-story/ for more.)

     

     

    Download this podcast: Navigating the Current of Decentralizing Leadership in a Nuclear Sub

     

    Podcast: Innovative Entrepreneur Josh Hebert

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    Born and raised in Arizona, Josh Hebert, an experienced chef and restaurant management consultant, started his career at renowned restaurant Tarbell’s in central Phoenix. After five years at the well-known restaurant, Josh’s quest for food collided with culture as he traveled the world from San Francisco to Tokyo. Shortly after returning to Arizona he opened POSH on New Year’s Eve of 2008, and has since opened Hot Noodles and Cold Sake – a ramen shop in Scottsdale with Japanese-style cuisine. Josh has skillfully blended his vast restaurant experience into a career in restaurant advisory and management.

    Listen in as Josh and David Lee talk about the future of restaurants.

    * This podcast was recorded prior to the passing of Anthony Bourdain.  We honor and thank Mr. Bourdain for his outstanding contributions to culture, cuisine, and the human condition.


     

     

     

    Webinar: Accelerating High Performance Team Development

    Accelerating High Performance Team Development utilizes an easy-to-understand 3D visual called Team Mapping that represents organizational relationships and identifies opportunities to improve in the areas of Communication, Cooperation, and Leadership and Decision Making.

    See first-hand how Team Mapping works as MSSBTI Executive Director David Lee reviews a recent client Case Study and covers the benefits of Team Mapping, how it works, and the 3D software utilized.

    This is a great opportunity to get an up-close look at how Team Mapping works and how it can benefit your team.  Learn more about Accelerated Programs and High Performance Team Development.


     

     

     

    Podcast: From Nearly Turned Out to Successfully Turned Around with Tim O’Neal

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    With nearly three decades of experience working in the thrift industry, Tim O’Neal has spent the past 18 years focused on the mission of fighting unemployment in the state of Arizona. When O’Neal was brought on with Goodwill of Central Arizona, the organization was in serious financial trouble and at risk of having its membership removed by Goodwill Industries International.

    O’Neal’s arrival marked a turning point in the 70-year history of the organization, and his leadership was instrumental in keeping the organization running by increasing retail operations by 3000 percent during his tenure as the Vice President of Retail Operations

    During this Podcast, we discuss the transformation and growth of Goodwill of Arizona into one of the top 3 Goodwill organizations in the world.

    If you would like a tour of Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona’s facilities contact Tim at tim.oneal@goodwillaz.org.

     

     

     

     

    Transforming Talent Acquisition

    Successful companies are transforming the way that they assess and acquire their leaders to ensure a stronger talent base and deliver better business results. This can be achieved through a disciplined process that will bring about demonstrable business results and enable long-term organizational advances.

    Claudio F. Miers has dedicated his career to the Human Capital and Organizational Development arena and has managed complex, diverse international organizations through intense growth, change and culture transformation, including Vice President of Organizational Transformation at Emerson Automation Solutions.

    Walter U. Baker has over 25 years’ professional experience in advising corporate executives on attracting top tier talent to key leadership positions vital to the success of their company. Walter has extensive retained executive search experience. Throughout his career, Walter has successfully partnered with multiple global organizations to develop and execute reality based recruitment strategies to fill client leadership positions with “A” level talent.

    Learn more about Transforming Talent Acquisition.  Contact MSSBTI at 602-387-2100 or dlee@mssbti.com.


    The Transforming Talent Acquisition workshop looks at the talent acquisition process as an investment. In many cases, it is the most critical investment a company must make in support of its business strategy. We will examine the Talent Acquisition Process from A to Z, starting with a thorough understanding of what kind of talent mix is needed to achieve the business goals, and go all the way to ensure the brought-in talent will stay and prosper with the organization.

    Another key element is the tracking of results, measuring the return on the talent acquisition investment, and truly linking it to the bottom line.

    Expectations and Goals

    • Stronger core teams that deliver better business results
    • People that understand and are ready to initiate and execute your business strategy, addressing the challenges head-on

    Workshop Modules

    • Ensuring Business Alignment
    • Linking the Talent Strategy to the Business Plans
    • Implementing and Executing the Talent Acquisition Strategy
    • Monitoring Talent Acquisition Project Outcomes
    • Measuring Talent Acquisition ROI
    • Participants will develop a specific set of recommendations for their organizations in the format of a customized Talent Acquisition Playbook

    Location

    • All workshops can be performed at MSSBTI facilities in Central Phoenix, AZ or onsite at the client location

    Sponsor Briefing

    Active and visible sponsorship is the number one contributor to overall project success. This Sponsor Briefing program provides the “what” and “why” of change management in terms that resonate with senior leaders; what change management is and its critical connection with achieving business results. This program then advises senior leaders of their role in the change process as identified in over fifteen years of best practices research. Sponsors will emerge better equipped to effectively lead change and strategically position their projects for success.

    Program Length

    • 4-6 hour briefing

    Audience

    • Executives and senior leaders that sponsor change

    Ideal size

    • 10 participants

    Success Factors

    • Sponsorship
    • Pre-program data collection
    • Managed Expectations

    For more information about the Sponsor Briefing program, contact us at 602-387-2100 or dlee@www.mssbti.com.  Workshop can be performed at MSSBTI facilities in Central Phoenix, AZ or onsite at the client location.

    3 Ways Teams Will Die Organizational Deaths and a Solution

    Sadly, I’ve watched many centralized change teams (e.g., Lean Offices, Agile Groups, Morale Committees) die organizational deaths. Much of the suffering prior to their demises has been at their own hands, though I doubt they would ever see it that way. Hence, I offer my perspective as another version of the story that may prompt self-reflection and learning. I’ll focus on three main ways that a change team dies, which include coercion, lag time and a focus on self. Afterwards, I will offer a potential solution of implementing employee empowerment, while minimizing business risk.

    Coercion
    They drive people. When you use some form of coercion (e.g., orders, fear of negative consequences, removal or application of positive consequences) to compel others to change, you are draining away from them and yourself some amount of energy. This slow-but-steady drain eventually depletes either the change team or their victims (er, clients). This drain usually goes unnoticed until a leader of one of the client organizations takes action to force a senior leader above the change team to cancel their work. Many meetings are held to question what, if any, value the change team is providing. Eventually, the senior leader gives in, saddened by the situation, but powerless to disagree. A central change team can save itself by switching to driving change, choosing this change (obviously) and clearing the obstacles for others to choose it to. By removing themselves from driving people, they will have removed a huge obstacle for their clients.

    Lag Time
    They lag behind the clients they purport to serve. When a central change group is created, the presumption is that they are the thought-leading, practice-leading experts who can, with their full time devoted to the change work, pull the entire organization along on their knowledge and experience. Yet, many central change teams may start out ahead of some of their clients, but usually aren’t out ahead of all them. Swelled with the pride of their new organization, the change teams can fall into a trap of arrogance, and disconnect from the thought and practice-leading clients and begin to create “the standard” way of doing the work, which is often more theoretical than practical, and often lags the learning that the clients are doing in the field. As time progresses, the gap between the leaders and the central organization grows, as the leaders are still driving for results and the central is driving for scalable, controllable models (one size training, one process implementations). When the gap gets big enough, or the tug of their lagging standard gets big enough, the leaders will again appeal to the senior leaders to choose between the results they are getting for the organization or the overhead of the centralized team, which failed to help the leading group get any better, faster, or cheaper. A central team can save itself if it rediscovers its humility and links itself to the leaders in a driving change way of obstacle removal and pushing out the edges of organizational limits.

    Focus on Self
    They focus on their program, versus on their clients or their results. When I ask a central change team, what are you working on, and all they tell me is about internal meetings, internal plans, and internal processes, I know they are slowly dying. Their attention has shifted from their clients and client results to themselves and their results (or activities often) and with this shift they have lost the focus they need to deliver on the reason they were created: results. They can save themselves if they shift their time together to figuring out how they can faster support their clients and remove the obstacles their clients have identified or ratified.

    There are many great people in the world doing their very best to drive implementations of worthy changes and methods, however they continue to coerce, lag on their commitments and focus on self. All of these problems are related to the business struggle with how to enact empowerment on their projects. Utilizing a simple framework to help have an effective conversation about how to integrate empowerment with development and teamwork can curb many of the above problems. For some business professionals this can be known as tollgates or clip rates. Usually used when it comes to finances, there are budgetary limits set for decision making that an individual can do on their own before they require authorization. Once the budgetary limit goes over that amount, there must be additional authorizations provided to make the decision.

    The Authorization Tiers Framework
    Another simple solution is referred to as the Authorization Tiers Framework (see image below). Merging my work and David Marquet’s Ladder of Leadership, the Authorization Tiers Framework debuted publicly at the New Trends in Project Management (NTPM) Conference for Project Management Institute (PMI) in Gdansk, Poland. I keynoted on April 25, 2017 and shared how anyone can use the authorization tiers to increase their opportunity to thrive in complex environments. For the full presentation slides click here.

    Maximizing employee empowerment can be difficult because it puts the business at risk, but no business can afford to micromanage all of their employees. I hope that by identifying the will help you see ways they can avoid common problems and keep themselves serving their clients well for years to come. By using the Authorization Tiers Framework, you may generate the employee empowerment that your employees have always hoped for.


    April’s book, Everyone is a Change Agent, is available on Amazon.

    Employee Orientation

    Successful change relies on the acceptance and engagement of your employees, one individual at a time. The Change Management Orientation for Employees is based on the Employee’s Survival Guide to Change and the ADKAR® Model to help employees engage in the change process. Participants will gain a feeling of control over the change process, learn the concepts of change management, understand how to use the ADKAR model as a change tool and engage in the changes currently underway within their organization.

    Program Length

    • 1-day program (time could vary depending on depth of conversation)

    Intended Audience

    • The program is designed for front-line employees impacted by change

    Ideal Size

    • 30 or fewer participants

    Success Factors

    • Sponsorship
    • Pre-work
    • Managed Expectations
    • Manager support but not presence

    For more information about the Employee Orientation program, contact us at 602-387-2100 or dlee@mssbti.com.  Workshop can be performed at MSSBTI facilities in Central Phoenix, AZ or onsite at the client location.

    Practitioner Certification

    Participants will be equipped with Prosci’s research-based change management methodology and tools including the Prosci 3-Phase Process, Prosci® ADKAR® Model, Change Management Toolkit, and Change Management Pilot Professional in order to develop scaled change management strategies for projects and initiatives. Participants who successfully complete the program will be certified as a Prosci Change Management Practitioner.

    Program Length

    • 3-day program

    Intended Audience

    Employees who are responsible for managing change on specific projects or initiatives or those responsible for building an organizational change management competency. This could include:

    • Change Managers
    • change management team members
    • Project Managers
    • project team members
    • HR leads
    • OD leads
    • sponsors of change
    • consultants and trainers

    Ideal Size

    • 12-16 participants

    Success Factors

    • Effective sponsorship
    • Administrative support
    • Project and work group definitions
    • Managing expectations
    • Environment
    • Pre-work completion

     

    For more information about becoming a Certified Prosci Change Management Practitioner, contact us at 602-387-2100 or dlee@mssbti.com.  Workshop can be performed at MSSBTI facilities in Central Phoenix, AZ or onsite at the client location.