I recently sent out a P4 on “Practices of Successful Commands” that captured what I saw in the “stand-out” commands I have visited since taking command. My P4 also highlighted fundamental programs I believe are essential to the health of the force and the readiness of the Fleet. These programs are only effective, however, if the person responsible for them understands why they were established and keeps them focused on output and not “churn.”
One issue that seems to be a constant undercurrent is the amount of time, resources, focus and energy we spent on establishing, refining, and participating in various processes instead of on the actual output of the process. This worship of process over product (“churn”) results in people going through the motions, with little to no understanding of its original purpose, resulting in very little output.
One of the essential programs I identified in my P4 was zone inspections. “Command at Sea” describes the purpose of a zone inspection program:
“Inspections are a means of ascertaining the state of battle readiness, administration, preservation, and training of your ship and its crew. The longest-established inspection in the Navy is the weekly captain’s inspection. Article 0708-1 of Navy Regulations directs you to hold periodic inspections of the material of your command to determine deficiencies and cleanliness. Weekly inspections offer you an excellent opportunity to impress your policies on the crew. When you inspect, tell them what you want, what is wrong, and, more importantly, what is right. If they know what you want, then they will give it to you.”
So zone inspections are a feedback loop for the Commanding Officer. They tell him through personal observation and interaction with the crew whether they are maintaining his/her ship to his/her standards. They provide an opportunity to teach Sailors and Junior Officers about standards by showing them what sub-standard looks like. They provide a quick assessment of the health of a Division based on how well that Division is caring for its spaces. And the output of an effective zone inspection program is a culture of self assessment and self improvement.
Some commands, however, have made zone inspections an administratively burdensome program. Their program consists of an excel spreadsheet driven by a checklist given to a Sailor with the direction to “go find a minimum of 20 deficiencies." The result is often counter to everything a zone inspection program was intended to accomplish... maintain the ship to the Commanding Officer’s standards by establishing a culture of self assessment and self improvement.
Process is essential to producing a good product. However, we cannot allow ourselves –- at any level -- to worship the process at the neglect of the product.
All the best, JCHjr
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FM COMUSFLTFORCOM NORFOLK VA//N00//
UNCLAS PERSONAL FOR COMMANDERS, COMMANDING OFFICERS, OFFICERS INCHARGE, FORCE MASTER CHIEFS, AND COMMAND MASTER CHIEFS FROM ADMHARVEY AND FLTCM HOWARD SECINFO/-/-// MSGID/GENADMIN/COMUSFLTFORCOM NORFOLK VA//
SUBJ/PRACTICES OF SUCCESSFUL COMMANDS//
1. FOR THE PAST SIX MONTHS, FLEET MASTER CHIEF HOWARD AND I HAVE BEEN VISITING A LARGE NUMBER OF FLEET UNITS, GETTING TO HEAR DIRECTLY FROM OUR SAILORS AND OUR LEADERSHIP TEAMS. AS WE COMPARE NOTES FROM OUR VISITS, WE OFTEN DISCUSS WHAT REALLY STRUCK US ABOUT A PARTICULAR SHIP, AVIATION SQUADRON, SUBMARINE, OR EXPEDITIONARY UNIT. AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT, THERE ARE SOME COMMANDS THAT STAND OUT FROM THE REST FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS, AND THERE ARE A FEW (VERY FEW FORTUNATELY) THAT STAND OUT FOR THE WRONG REASONS.
2. WHAT FLEET HOWARD AND I HAVE BEEN DOING IS LOOKING AT THE POSITIVE "STAND-OUT" COMMANDS AND ASKING OURSELVES WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE FOR THAT PARTICULAR UNIT, WHAT MADE THEM GOOD? AFTER ALL, MANY OF OUR UNITS HAVE BEEN DEALT RELATIVELY SIMILAR HANDS WHEN IT COMES TO PEOPLE (MANNING NUMBERS AND EXPERIENCE LEVELS), TRAINING (FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS, NECESSARY STEAMING DAYS, AND FLYING HOURS), AND MAINTENANCE (SPARE PARTS SUPPORT, DEPOT LEVEL REPAIR SUPPORT, AND SCHEDULED AVAILABILITIES) - GIVEN ROUGHLY SIMILAR RESOURCES AND TALENT DISTRIBUTIONS WHAT MAKES SUCH A BIG DIFFERENCE FOR SOME UNITS THAN OTHERS?
3. THE MORE WE STUDY THE ISSUES AND THE MORE WE HEAR FROM THE FLEET, THE MORE WE SEE THAT THE "STAND-OUT" COMMAND LEADERSHIP TEAMS ARE ABLE TO NAVIGATE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE FLEET RESPONSE PLAN, EFFECTIVELY RESPOND TO THE MANY DEMANDS OF VARIOUS EXTERNAL PROGRAMS FOR TIME AND ATTENTION, AND AT THE SAME TIME, TEND TO THE FUNDAMENTAL PROGRAMS THAT WE FIND UNDERPIN EVERY SUCCESSFUL COMMAND.
4. HOW DO THEY DO IT? FIRST, THERE IS OUTSTANDING COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION BETWEEN THE CO, XO, AND CMC - THE COMMAND LEADERSHIP TEAM IS UNIFIED AND ALIGNED. PRIORITIES ARE UNDERSTOOD AND RESOURCES ALLOCATED ACCORDINGLY; THE ISIC AND THE CREW ARE BROUGHT INTO THE PLANNING BASED ON THESE PRIORITIES. MOST IMPORTANTLY, THEY DONT TRY TO DO IT ALL, EVERY DAY. THE PRIORITIES THEY SET REALLY MEAN SOMETHING; JUDGMENT CALLS ARE MADE AND ACTED ON, BASED ON THE PRIORITIES THAT HAVE BEEN EXPLAINED UP AND DOWN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND. THE ABILITY TO SET CLEAR, AND CORRECT, PRIORITIES AND DECISIVELY ACT ON THEM BUILDS THE CONFIDENCE OF THE CREW AND ENABLES FURTHER INITIATIVE BY THE CREW.
5. SECOND, THERE IS AN ABILITY TO REVISIT PROGRAMS AT THE RIGHT TIME; MECHANISMS EXIST THAT CAN FOCUS COMMAND ATTENTION ON AREAS THAT HAVE BEEN PLACED LOWER ON THE PRIORITY LIST FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME, BUT COULD, IF COMPLETELY IGNORED, CAUSE SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS DOWNSTREAM. WHEN I WAS XO OF USS LONG BEACH (CGN 9), MY CAPTAIN EXPLAINED THIS CONCEPT TO ME USING THE IMAGE OF THE "PLATE-SPINNERS" YOU SOMETIMES SAW ON VARIETY SHOWS - BE SURE YOU GET BACK TO THE FIRST PLATE YOU STARTED SPINNING BEFORE IT STARTS TO WOBBLE UNCONTROLLABLY AND FALLS OFF THE BALANCE POLE. EVERY SO OFTEN, EVERY PROGRAM GETS A LITTLE "SPIN" TO HELP KEEP IT ON TRACK.
6. THIRD, IN OUR FRONT-RUNNING UNITS THE FOUNDATIONAL PROGRAMS THAT KEEP OUR SAILORS AND UNITS READY, HEALTHY, AND WHOLE ARE VERY STRONG. THE OUTSTANDING COMMAND LEADERSHIP TEAMS ARE TRULY "BRILLIANT ON THE BASICS"; THEY'VE GOT THE FUNDAMENTALS DOWN COLD AND NEVER FORGET THAT BEFORE YOU CAN MAKE THE BIG PLAY THAT WINS THE GAME, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO BLOCK AND TACKLE PERFECTLY. SOMEWHERE IN THE CHAIN-OF-COMMAND, SOMEONE IS ALWAYS GIVING A "SPIN" TO THESE FOUNDATIONAL PROGRAMS.
7. BELOW IS A SUMMARY OF WHAT FLEET MASTER CHIEF HOWARD AND I VIEW AS THE FUNDAMENTAL PROGRAMS ESSENTIAL TO MAINTAINING THE HEALTH OF THE FORCE AND THE READINESS OF THE FLEET. WHILE CERTAINLY NOT ALL-INCLUSIVE OR APPLICABLE TO EVERY COMMUNITY, EVERY DAY, THEY ARE THE ONES SOMEONE IN YOUR CHAIN-OF-COMMAND NEEDS TO BE "GIVING A SPIN" ON A REGULAR BASIS:
A. COMMAND READINESS
(1) DAILY QUARTERS FOR MUSTER, INSPECTION & INSTRUCTION
(2) EDVR MANAGEMENT
(3) PQS AND WARFARE SPECIALTY QUALIFICATION
(4) 3M/PLANNED MAINTENANCE SYSTEM
(5) OPERATING AND SAFETY PROCEDURES (NAVY OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY PROGRAMS, EOSS, CSOSS, NATOPS, NSTM COMPLIANCE)
(6) ZONE INSPECTION PROGRAM
(7) DIVISION/DEPARTMENT IN THE SPOTLIGHT
B. SAILOR READINESS
(1) COMMAND SPONSOR/INDOCTRINATION PROGRAMS
(2) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT/CAREER DEVELOPMENT BOARDS
(3) ADVANCEMENT QUALIFICATION AND PREPARATION
(4) PETTY OFFICER INDOCTRINATION/COMMAND-DELIVERED LEADERSHIP
(5) INDIVIDUAL AUGMENTEE SUPPORT
(6) PHYSICAL READINESS PROGRAM
(7) MENTOR PROGRAM
C. COMMAND HEALTH AND WHOLENESS
(1) OMBUDSMAN/FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP PROGRAMS
(2) EQUAL OPPORTUNITY PROGRAMS
(3) SEXUAL ASSAULT PREVENTION AND RESPONSE PROGRAMS
(4) ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE PREVENTION/URINALYSIS PROGRAMS
(5) SUICIDE PREVENTION/STRESS CONTROL PROGRAMS
(6) VEHICLE SAFETY PROGRAMS
(7) LIBERTY INCIDENT MITIGATION/LIBERTY AS A MISSION 8. ADMIRAL J. C. HARVEY JR., COMMANDER, U.S. FLEET FORCES AND FLTCM(SW/AW) TOM HOWARD, SEND.//