“The captain must go down with the ship” is a phrase associated with the captain of a sinking ship. In this sense, the captain has an obligation (commitment) to stay on board the ship until the last passenger is rescued. If passengers cannot be rescued, the captain goes down with the ship. Today, this idiom often crosses over to organizational culture, requiring the “captain” of the organization (usually the CEO) or senior leader of the department (VP, Director, etc.) to accept responsibility for their respective organizations decisions. This may result in an abrupt resignation or termination – sometimes with a nice golden parachute.
While it is logically sound that the senior leader, whether it be the ship captain or company CEO, does their best to faithfully serve their organization (or passengers), is it right to make them go down with the ship or lose their position in the organization… for a mistake? What if they had no idea there was an issue until it was beyond their control? What if they truly are just the scapegoat?
In the case of the Volkswagen emission scandal that erupted in September of 2015, then CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned and the suspension of 3 brand and research head developers followed. It was found that the automaker developed special programming that intentionally mislead emissions tests in many of their turbo diesel vehicles. Find out more here.
The sinking ship concept places the CEO as “the fall guy” showing how the organization “took action” to rectify the issue by terminating the CEO or an abrupt resignation by the CEO. If the CEO had no knowledge of the issue, should he resign or be terminated? An argument for this would be the CEO should have known, and if she did not, the CEO should be terminated for their inability to lead the organization. This may or may not be the issue.
The one thing that bothers me, is our (cultures) need to place blame. Why should the CEO resign if the issue was 2 or 3 levels beneath them? Wouldn’t correcting the root cause or terminating the scandalous individual be enough? For some reason, it appears that our society has the need to blame someone or we feel an injustice has occurred. Now, I am not saying that termination is an inappropriate action. Intentional and willful negligence and deceit requires a heavier punishment than say, an honest mistake. Pointing the finger makes us feel better. Instead, I propose we correct the issue, care for people, and make amends for our mistakes – intentional or not.
What happens next? Can the organization or individual recover from their mistake? Check out our next article discussing personal and organizational image – recovering from a mistake.
Jared W. Snow
Here is a quick lesson from my 11 year old son, Gavin. You see, Gavin enjoys tinkering around the garage. The challenge for me is he uses tools and doesn’t put them away – big surprise for anyone with an 11 year old?! I recently purchased a new tool chest – the kind that locks! I told Gavin that since he helped lose pieces and some were not put away correctly, that he earned the opportunity to help organize my new tool chest.
It came time to organize the sockets. There were at least 2 dozen that were not where they belong and my instructions were to organize them first by standard and metric. I showed him that standard have measurements of 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and so on and that metric have a number and “mm” next to it. Easy instructions, not too many sockets to organize, and he was doing it with a smile.
Then he says, “Dad, your way works, and I don’t mean to be rude, but I have a faster way.” First, I was glad he was trying not to be rude. Second, I was surprised that he had an easier way. Was it to just throw them out?! So, he showed me. And here is the 2-part lesson. Apparently, at least on a Craftsman socket set, the standard sockets have, along with the brand name, the measurement only, while the metric sockets have 1/8 inch tick marks all the way around the bottom of the socket. Who knew!? So instead of looking for the “mm” he was looking for the tick marks. I have been doing it the difficult way all these years!
The second lesson of my 2-part lesson is you never know who you will learn from. That day, I learned that even a self-proclaimed efficient and effective guy like me can learn something from an 11 year old. Don’t ignore the person who you believe to be too young, too old, uneducated, wrong job, wrong business, or any other “wrong” or “too” [insert assumption here], as you never know who or where you will learn from.
Jared W. Snow
Have you ever wondered why other drivers are just not as courteous as you (or maybe they are wondering that about you!)? Or, why your coworker doesn’t deliver the report as she is supposed to? Maybe, why your husband can’t seem to understand what you are telling him? For many, the idea, concept, process, whatever it is, is common sense, so we believe that it should be common to those around us. The result, we end up disappointed or frustrated, or even angry.
So why does this happen?
Most of us have heard (and said) that common sense isn’t common. Do you think this is true? My stance is that common sense is common; otherwise, they wouldn’t call it common. However, it is not common to everyone. At least not in the way most of us think. Why? Because we are all different.
I was working with two other coworkers who were fed up with how each other conducted themselves, I will call them Mike and Todd. Mike was the lead and would complain that Todd was not completing his tasks as he should. When asked if Todd was told what to do, Mike would say, “Of course!” The reality is, the message was not delivered in a way that Todd understood.
In this example, Mike would tell Todd to “complete your assignments”. Todd would claim they were done and Mike would claim they were not. The issue? The message was not clear enough. “Complete you assignments” is far different from “Complete your presentation and reports by 10:00 am Friday November 6, 2015 and deliver them to me by email.” The later provides a more thorough suspense and deliver method, which can be easily followed (assuming the task/project instructions were clear as well).
So which method is considered common? Both. How?
Standardize products and service, delivery method, and set clear expectations with your team. Doing so will create a clear standard that can be followed, monitored, and adhered to. If your team is cohesive and has been together long enough, “complete your assignments” will be common for your team.
If your team is still forming, or if you have members who require more in-depth instruction, then provide that for them. There is no harm in providing clear instructions. This will help build your team to become more cohesive, efficient, and effective. Remember, it is not that they lack common sense. Common sense is just different for everyone.
As you work with others – subordinates, peers, your leadership – consider what they determine to be common sense. How does it differ from what you determine to be common? Does this change how you perceive them? How they perceive you? Keep this in mind as you lead your team, take instruction from your supervisor, or changing lanes on the freeway. Because common sense isn’t common, or is it?
Jared W. Snow
We have all been there. Waiting for what seems like eternity for your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant, becoming more impatient as your hunger grows and the clock ticks. In reality, it has only been 30 minutes for your favorite sushi roll or perfectly seasoned and grilled steak to appear. At last, you can finally enjoy that meal you so desperately desired.
Last week I discussed the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. How does your understanding of expectations and quality relate to efficiency and effectiveness? Essentially, efficiency is related to time and effectiveness to quality (review last weeks discussion here). Knowing what is expected and defining quality will change what is determined to be efficient and effective.
So what if I expect my favorite restaurant to be less efficient in trade for a more effective quality product? Is this really less efficient or just different? Conversely, should I expect a fast-food restaurant to be more efficient but receive a lower quality product? Is this really a lower quality product or just different. What does quality mean?
Quality can be defined as the degree to which a product or service meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations. (Project Managers also consider the grade of a product or service, but that is a different topic.) If I go to a steakhouse, I expect a perfectly seasoned and grilled steak. If I go through a drive-thru, I expect a burger cooked and served quickly.
When I go to my favorite steakhouse, I am sacrificing my time as I know the wait will likely be 45 minutes, but I am gaining what I perceive to be a high quality meal that meets my expectations. Should the fact that I already know the wait time is going to be 45 minutes change my definition of efficiency?
When I am in a hurry, I will go to a fast-food drive-thru and order a quick burger. I am exchanging what I determine to be a higher quality product for efficiency (less time). Does this change my definition of quality?
You see, quality is not less or more, it is different, and the same with efficiency. If I were to go to a steakhouse, and I receive a fast-food quality burger instead of my perfectly grilled steak, I would be disappointed, as the steakhouse did not meet my expectations for what I determine as quality in that situation. Alternatively, I should not expect a steakhouse quality burger from a fast-food drive-thru.
How does a steakhouse relate to leadership? As you lead your team and determine efficiency and effectiveness, consider the expectations set, and how you and your team define quality. Ensure everyone is of the same understanding to reduce unmet requirements, simply because your definition is different from the others.
Moving forward, as you go to your favorite restaurant, see if you can tell what they value more – efficiency or effectiveness – and does this change based on your expectations and definition of quality. Meet with your team, clearly articulate your expectations, define quality, and drive efficient and effective results. See what happens when you become more efficient through effective use of your expectations and a clear definition of quality.
Jared W. Snow