Focusing on Responsibilties

Focusing on Responsibilities: The wardroom is paid to fight the ship, to engage and defeat the enemy at every opportunity. The chiefs are paid to operate the ship in a manner that allows her commanders to take the ship to battle. If officers become involved in day-to-day operations, they are unable to devote the requisite time to developing their war-fighting skills. The chiefs, as a natural defense, withdraw into their quarters, isolating themselves from the inevitable mismanagement of the ship's routine. The crew, sensing the frustration of their chiefs, refuses to take an interest in the ship or the Navy.

The predicable results are poor morale, dismal operating conditions, and a work environment replete with the threat of punishment at every instance of perceived misconduct. It is here, perhaps, where the greatest harm is done to a warship absolutely dependent upon the good faith and trust of all her members. As the perception grows that all problems or mistakes will be dealt with through the same mindless punishment, so too grows a propensity to deceive in order to avoid that fait accompli. Fewer and fewer mistakes occur not because performance improves, but because the crew becomes naturally less willing to bring problems to the attention of the ship's officers. Officers must remember that the chiefs are the professionals who have seen a career's worth of breakdowns and mistakes and understand the level of attention each requires. On ships where the chiefs set the standard, routine things get done and inevitable problems are handled in a routine way.

Proceedings/Dec 1988