Good Learning Behavior in Action

Recently, one of my junior officers was on duty when a security incident occurred in the shipyard. He notified me by a reasonably good email (not the best communications vehicle for such a high interest issue unless followed up quickly by a phone call) and I cc'd him on my communications to senior leaders (that were followed up by several calls by me) so he could see what I did with the information.

The key learning behavior he exhibited was sending the this email to document what he learned from the episode. Notice the use of "ninja" email subject composition skills.

Subject: Learning oppt: how words get passed around

This email chain/exchange is a good example of:

(1) The initial report should be received with skepticism. [Since he noticed corrections that were made by others that I informed with my email]

(2) Different versions of stories depending on who you are asking (i.e. always go to the source, if possible).

(3) The initial report should focus more on the occurrence of an event than providing details. You modified the report to focus more on generic facts (it occurred and more info to follow) rather than details so that the initial report is still valid after the revelation of other “mis-communicated” details.

By sending me the list of what he thought he learned, he enable me to give him this feedback:

Subject: Good conclusions: Learning oppt: how info gets passed around

Here is another way to write it:

(1) The initial report should be received with “caution.” The first report is typically inaccurate (most say “wrong,” but that is perhaps too harsh).

(2) Different versions of stories [can get transmitted rapidly because of widely dispersed information (fragments)] (i.e. always go to the source, if possible).

(3) The initial report should [be as generic as possible because senior leaders understand it takes time to collect good details. Keeping the initial report less detailed keeps it] valid after the revelation [additional] details.

(4) Reports to senior leaders should include a wide net (SF if possible) so it is easier to get corrections/updates to senior leaders (several people “replied to all” with updates so everyone was informed at the same time with additional/corrected information). Try to avoid sending emails about what others are doing or have done without their knowledge (bad practice).

The self-evaluation provided by this officer of the situation in the format: here is what happened, here is what I think it means, and (implied) what you do you think? made it easy to provide mentoring/feedback and is a good practice. I try to do it all the time, even when I don’t understand why a senior leader did something (I will make that explicit so I can learn from it).

I did not provide the complete text of the emails we exchanged due to the sensitive nature of the incident so I had to make this somewhat generic. I can send copies of the email chain upon request (presuming I know you).