Focusing on the Vital Few and eliminating the Trivial Many.

An 80/20 Analysis and Summary: Turn the Ship Around – How to Create Leadership at Every Level

 An 80/20 Analysis and Summary:  Turn the Ship Around – How to Create Leadership at Every Level

Turn the Ship Around – How to Create Leadership at Every Level, is about the leadership style and principles of L. David Marquet, who was captain of the USS Sante Fe. It is how he turned his crew from one of the worst to one of the best and high performing. It is how he turned the crew around.

While the whole book is definitely worth reading, we have performed an 80/20 Analysis, in which we took out the 20% that is vital and removed the 80% that supports the information.

The key takeaways, summary and the 20%  of the book that is vital includes: 

  • Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it themselves
  • Questions from the Captain:
    • What are the things you hope I don’t change?
    • The things you secretly hope I do change?
    • What are the good things we should build on?
    • If you were me, what would you do first?
    • Why isn’t the ship doing better?
    • What are your personal goals for your tour here on Santa Fe?
    • What’s keeping you from doing your job better?
    • What are our biggest challenges?
    • What are your biggest frustrations about how Santa Fe is Currently being run?
    • What is the best thing I can do for you?
  • Questions to Consider:
    • In an organization, are leaders rewarded for what happens after they transfer out or get promoted?
    • Do leaders want to be missed after they leave?
    • When an organization does worse after the departure of a leader, what does this say about that person’s leadership?
    • Are you asking questions to make sure you know, or to make sure they know?
    • Do you have to be the smartest person in your organization?
    • How do you know what is going on “At the deck plate” in your organization?
    • Do people take action to protect themselves or to make the outcome better?
    • Does leadership in your organization take control or give control?
    • Why is “doing what you are told” appealing to some? DO people really just want to do as they are told?
    • Do your procedures reinforce the leader-follower model?
    • Are your people trying to achieve excellence or just avoid making mistakes?
    • Has your organization become action-averse to avoid errors?
    • Do you spend more time discussing errors than celebrating success?
    • How do you minimize errors but not make that the focus of your organization?
    • What causes us to take control when we should be giving control?
    • What would be the biggest obstacle to implementing “I intend to…” at your business?
    • Could your mid-level managers think through and defend their plan of action for the company’s next big project? Or would they say “this is what I was told to do.”
    • Are you under-using the creativity and passion of your midlevel managers who want to be responsible for their department’s output?
    • Which areas of your business are mistake-prone because lower-level employees don’t have enough technical competence to make good decisions?
    • How could you implement a “We learn” policy among your junior and senior staff?
    • Can you “divest control” and “increase competence” in your organization?
    • Do you ever walk around your facility listening only to what is being communicated through informal language?
    • How comfortable are your people with talking about their hunches and gut feelings?
    • Are you willing to let your staff see that your lack of certainty is a strength and that certainty is arrogance?
    • How do you use outside groups, public, social media comments, and government audit to improve your company?
    • What is the cost of being open about problems in your company, and what are the benefits?
    • How can you “use” the inspectors to help?
    • What messages do you need to keep repeating in your company to make sure your management team doesn’t take care of themselves first, to the neglect of their teams and their people?
    • What would you and your team like to accomplish?
    • How can you as a leader help your people accomplish it?
    • Are you unintentionally protecting people from the consequences of their own behavior?
    • What is the legacy of your organization?
    • How does the legacy shed light on your organization’s purpose?
    • What kind of actions can you take to bring this legacy alive for individuals in your company?
  • Find the Genetic code for control and rewrite it
  • Act your way to new thinking
  • Short early conversations make efficient work
  • Use “I intend to…” to turn passive followers into active leaders
  • Resist the urge to provide solutions
  • Think out loud
  • Eyeball accountability
  • Push decisions to the next lower level in the company
  • When I think about delegating this decision, I worry that:
    • Issues of competence
    • Issues of clear understanding
  • Don’t ask if you can do it, say what you are going to do.
  • Don’t provide solutions, resist the urge.
  • If the decision is urgent, make it, then have the team evaluate it.
  • If the decision must be made soon, get team input, even briefly, then make the decision.
  • If the decision can be delayed, force the team to provide inputs, do not force the team to come to a consensus, cherish the different perspectives and disagreements.
  • Eliminate top-down monitoring, do not do the “we are checking up on you” line.
  • “Show me what you are working on…” – Think out loud
  • Specify goals, not methods
  • Consistently, repeat the message
  • Don’t brief, certify – ask questions
  • Learn (Everywhere, all the time)
  • Take deliberate action, don’t operate “on auto-pilot”
  • Encourage a questioning attitude
  • Build trust, take care of your people
  • Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviors
  • Use your legacy for inspiration
  • Use guiding principles for decision criteria
  • Being with the end in mind

Other Highlights: 

USS Santa Fe Creed

What do we do on a day-to-day basis?

We learn

Why is “learning” better than “training”?

Training implies passivity; it is done to us. We are trained. Learning is active, it is something we do.

How does the work get done?

We do the work. But, we learn by doing – maintenance, evolutions, casualty drills, studying. So, when we are working, even doing field day, we are learning.


Quick Reference Guide/Summary: 

Don’t Do ThisDo This
Take ControlGive Control
Give OrdersAvoid Giving Orders
When you give orders, be confident, unambiguous, and resoluteWhen you do give orders, leave room for questioning
Have meetingsHave conversations
Limit communications to terse, succinct formal ordersAugment orders with rich, contextual, informal communications
Be questioningBe curious
Want to be missed after you departWant not to be missed after you depart
Protect informationPass information
Make inefficient processes efficientEliminate processes that don’t add value

Currently, it is on Amazon for around $8 – Buy it Here


Did you read it? What were your takeaways? Any other similar books on leadership we should read? 


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