Counseling, Mentoring, and Coaching Military Leaders

A friend of mine from the GW Executive Leadership Program partnered with a colleague and converted part of his dissertation to an article that appeared in ARMY Magazine. The article notes that counseling, coaching, and mentoring (CCM) are not the same things. Each has an important place in the professional development of leaders. The authors argue for adapting professional military education to be a venue for conducting CCM.
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Professionalism and Leader Development

RADM Gardner Howe, President of the Naval War College, recently sent an email for wide distribution that I thought would make a good professional development blog post. It provides perspectives on command from two different points in history: the eve of WW2 and just a few years ago. There are questions at the end of the post to prompt additional reflection.
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How to be a Whiz at Personal Updates on LinkedIn (or other venues)

This is just a short post to note that the best way to keep people informed of what you are up to professionally and personally is to use a template. I keep mine in Text Expander for the Mac (a wonderful tool that I use all the time), but I used to use Simple Note and you could use Apple Notes (both available in the cloud, which is important). I have a "standard" update that I can paste into a LinkedIn email right after I connect with someone because I got tired of spending 30 minutes to produce one from scratch every time someone sent me a note asking, "How are things going?" Pasting the note into a LinkedIn email takes less than five seconds. I read over it to see if I want to change anything in the template or just customize it for the particular person. DON'T click to read more, there isn't any.
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EU-HRO 2013 Thresher Presentation

I traveled to Aix en Provence ("Aix," pronounced "ex") in the south of France to present at the Third European Conference for High Reliability Organizations 5-6 November 2013. It was held at the newly opened (six months before the conference) Bouches-du-Rhone Fire Training School (EDSP) in Velaux, France. I have posted a few details about the trip to my family blog. I presented an interactive session focused on a High Reliablity view of the loss of the USS THRESHER (Apr 1963) and the fire aboard the USS MIAMI (May 2012). Here are links to the files I presented, the powerpoint and the speaker's notes.  I have notes on the conference (in progress) in case anyone wants to read them.

Thinking Differently about Internet Privacy and Anti-Terrorism

Bruce Schneier, author and security expert, spoke with EconTalk host Dr. Russ Roberts recently about power, the internet, and anti-terrorism strategies.These notes are from the transcript on the Econtalk website. In essence, Schneier asserts that most people aren't bothered by increases in surveillance and eavesdropping because they are too busy to understand the implications for their personal freedom. This is the same reason why most people do not bother to update their anti-virus software, process the never ending stream of Windows security patches, or update their iOS applications. Schneier is also critical of our anti-terror domestic security measures, arguing that acts of terrorism are too rare to justify much concern (riding in a car is much more dangerous than airline travel). Authorities are always defending against the *last* threat with their limited resources so the security procedures at airports amount to more theater than real security.
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Space-A Travel Conference Notes

I attended the Space-Available travel conference organized by Dirk Peppard ( in Jacksonville FL 17-19 May. The blog post is a brief summary and provides a link to my detailed notes.
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Pictures of USS Guardian Salvage

A friend of mine sent these great pictures of the salvage of the USS Guardian. The file is almost 5Meg and can be downloaded here.

Some Thoughts on Economics, the Role of Government , and Sequestration

I have been having some lengthy Facebook conversations with a friend and collegue about sequestration. After spending nearly three hours going back and forth, I decided to briefly summarize my thinking on the matter as an exercise in critical thinking. Readers of the blog might be interested (or might not), but I suggest talking just a few minutes to compose your own thoughts on whether economics is a science (which drives how much faith you should put in any predictive models for economies as a whole), the proper role of government in economic affairs, and whether the cuts involved in sequestration are better than no cuts at all (and what your reasons are for thinking so). Once you spend ten to fifteen minutes thinking about that, you will get more out of this blog post.
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Normal Polmar 2012 Article: U.S. Navy - A Paradigm Shift

I found this article by Normal Polmar (USNI) last year and regret not posting it before now. In essence, Polmar argues that CVNs are too darn expensive to build in "eleven carrier" numbers and LHA/Ds can perform the most probable missions a large flat deck vessel will have for the foreseeable future (forget conventional war with China) that have not been supplanted by other, even cheaper technology. The only counter argument I can envision is "that's not the way we expect/want to fight." Draw your own conclusions, but you have to figure out how to pay for whatever you choose. Hoping someone sends you buckets of money is not a viable acquisition strategy.
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Lessons Learned from the Loss of the USS THRESHER Patient Safety Presentation

I made a presentation at the 3rd Annual Patient Safety and Quality Conference in St Louis, MO. The title of my presentation was"Lessons from the Loss of THRESHER: High Reliability for Patient Safety" that was very well-received. It focused on some of the high reliability practices the Navy uses in submarine maintenance and how they can be adapted to improve safety in other contexts, like Patient Safety. I really enjoyed this opportunity and was treated exceptionally well by the conference organizers and participants. The presentatiion is available here. I have put the speaker's notes in a separate file (they are also embedded on the slides), which is available here. I have also posted a collection of research articles I encountered recently related to medical care and high realiability organizing here, which might be of interest to conference attendees wishing to do more research on their own.

Reducing TOC: Designing Ships from the Inside-Out

This is a brief post about an excellent article in the Dec 12 ASNE Naval Engineers Journal about why ships are so expensive. It is a bit long and full of technical detail about design tools, seaway loads, and cost estimating, but I recommend all naval engineers read it. While I thought the detail was interesting, it still does not explain why we keep doing things in the design process that lead us to produce very complex, expensive ships. The most interesting question to me is not how do we design ships to be more affordable, but rather why don't we do the things we already know how to do that will reduce ship costs?
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Ship Infrastructure Maintenance and Service Life

This post is based on a recent Early Bird article (26 Dec 12) about the link between Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical maintenance and ship service life. The main point of the article was that combat system obsolescence used to be the main driver for ship relevance. If the Navy is successful at implementing modular combat systems that are relatively inexpensive to upgrade, hull, mechanical and electrical system conditions may become the limiting factor in whether ships reach expected service lives. Unlike combat systems performance and capability, however, we lack concise methods to evaluate, communicate, and budget for correction of the *impact* of deferred maintenance.
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Some Brief, Not So Random Thoughts


I have posted before about the Manager Tools Trilogy. What I really like about the Manager Tools "Trinity" (it is actually *four* things: one on ones, coaching, feedback, and delegation) are three things. One, they looked at what very successful managers do (like Collins and Porras, "Good to Great" with companies) and created a teachable model that is pretty easy to learn and apply. Two, the "trinity" works exceptionally well because it is a system based on a deep understanding of human psychology, which makes it timeless (like Covey's "Seven Habits" and David Allen's "Getting Things Done"). Three, the parts work well very as a system so it is impossible to "copy" or get similar results with shortcuts (like Southwest Airlines, who are not in the same game as United, American, Delta, and US Air).
One of the biggest "blind spots" in technical organizations is that they tend to treat humans like components (create the right instructions and manuals and you get the performance you dictate, deviations are the result of personal "defects"). Performance improvement will be asymptotic with that view because the tools and practices used to reach a certain level cannot take such organizations any farther (as Sidney Dekker notes in "Ten Questions About Human Error"). I stumbled upon this when I was at Supship as Carrier Overhaul Project Officer and getting ready to go on to my next job.  After my thinking on human error and system safety "evolved," I started to scare people senior to me and at headquarters pretty frequently because I did not think the way they did (that "more of the same" just done "better" would produce better results) anymore.


Highlights from a Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Conference

I took some notes at a conference I recently attended to showcase what industry leaders are doing with Siemens Product Lifecycle Management (SPLM or Siemens PLM) software. You can download the entire file of my notes here, but the highlights were:


  • Key industry trends are: "big data," increasing product complexity, integration of IT systems, computational expansion
  • Ford uses Teamcenter to manage in-vehicle software, $100M in warranty reductions in 3 years
  • IBM talked about the death of product design: how continuous connectivity, social networks and “big data” are killing product development
  • The most successful companies are not making mere products. They are now producing systems and service development (think iPods with iTunes). An airplane is a product, focused on speeds and feeds, a one time sale, and the supplier can be replaced because the product is commiditized. A transportation system (like FAA, radars, GPS, etc.) represents an  integrated approach and is much harder to copy/replicate.
  • The cost of complexity (in products and services, internal and external to companies) is the biggest underestimated cost in business today. You might have a great technology, but if your product and system are too hard to use, you will lose to someone with 80% of the features that are simpler to use (think iPhone).
  • There is an inexorable shift to Global Markets (characterized by the same competitors in each, customers driving requirements the same way). US does not understand the full impact of globalization on US companies because we still manage world markets as distinct markets.
  • “Innovation is a significant improvement along the main parameter of customer value.”
  • “North America business of US companies will be the ‘cash machine’ to fund emerging market focus”
  • Companies use PLM to create "one version of the truth” with everyone using the same data
  • Jason Jennings' presentation on “The Reinventors” had some familiar themes and some good reminders, like a Frugal leadership approach asks "What is the Good Business Reason For Doing This (WGBRFDT)? Can we do this without spending much money?" The best insight he provided was that double digit growth is an imperative because of the talent it attracts and retains, not because it is good for shareholders.


Some Thoughts on "The Mythical Man Month"

"The Mythical Man Month" is a book on software engineering and project management by Fred Brooks. Most of the book is about the pitfalls of large programming projects, but the author's views on scheduling, project complexity, and the importance of communications are relevant to any project. The book's title derives from a fallacy of scheduling that holds that humans and months are interchangeable, meaning that the productive effort that results from adding more people to any project will always reduce the time it takes to finish. This is a central, if unstated, premise of ship construction and overhaul scheduling. Brooks based the book on his experiences at IBM managing the development of OS/360.
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Retirement Process Lessons Learned

Getting through the retirement process, including the ceremony, can be a challenge because it is so unfamiliar and the readily available guidance is weak, there are so many important checkpoints to pass, and most of the people in charge of the checkpoints are very junior and not easily accessible. There are many great resources available, but I stumbled on many of them close to the last minute so it was hard to take advantage of them like I could have if I had known about them months earlier. The key checkpoints for the retirement process are: DD 214 issue, job search/networking, closeout physicals, the retirement ceremony (yes, you should have one), and submitting your medical/dental records to the VA for processing. This post will cover each and provide links to checklists I have obtained from others or generated myself. Feel free to add comments about what I else I should have included based on your interest (about to retire) or experience (already retired or things you have seen others do that worked particularly well).
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