Follow Through

Don’t make a new rule unless you plan on enforcing it.

Don’t make a new rule unless you plan on enforcing it. Not even the Captain gets to just fire-and-forget– even he will will occasionally ping on the XO, COB/CMC, or the duty officers to make sure his orders are being carried out. Likewise, you’ll have to consistently probe and correct if your brilliant new policy is to have any hope of taking root. Consider this before you make it. Think about how you’re going to verify its being done. Know what action you will take when you find that it isn’t being done. If you’re not prepared to take this action, you’re not prepared to make this new policy.

The point is not that you’ve got to violently crush all who disobey, or that you shouldn’t make new rules or policies– it is that you must not do it lightly or arbitrarily. The majority of a given crew have been around long enough to have seen an unpopular, ill-supported policy or directive get neglected out of existence. This can feel like a great victory for the forces of common sense and decency, so when something feels like a poorly considered order, it is often destined to become a poorly executed order.

Great ideas, when poorly executed or not followed through, are more damaging than nothing at all.

Besides the obvious negative of failing to produce the intended result, half-assed executions cause all sorts of collateral damage. Great ideas, when poorly executed or not followed through, are more damaging than nothing at all. They waste people’s time and energy. They breed cynicism. They frustrate and demotivate. They teach the lesson that leaders can be ignored. Often, they become sailor-traps, when an unenforced, neglected directive suddenly becomes important at the worst possible time. You owe it to your guys not to let this happen.

This principle becomes even more pertinent when dealing with written instructions. Some JOs can go a little crazy when they realize the power that comes with writing a ship’s instruction. Easy, killer. While writing instructions is often a very important first step in formalizing change, its just the first step. Nobody actually reads that stuff– its still up to you to promote and enforce.

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One thought on “Follow Through

  1. Pingback: Bad Advice | JO Rules

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