Turn the Ship Around! - notes from the book

Here are some notes and highlights I took while reading "Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders" by David Marquet

Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. -- STEPHEN R. COVEY

Chapter 1. Pain

I thought deeply about what motivated me and how I want to be treated.

I felt I was at my best when given specific goals but broad latitude in how to accomplish them.

:bulb: :heavy_exclamation_mark: Ask "What motivates you?". Discuss and explore with the support of the Moving Motivators.

:bulb: :heavy_exclamation_mark: Ask How do you want to be treated? Why?".

One of the things that limits our learning is our belief that we already know something


Chapter 2. Business as Usual

People need to see the need to decide to change.

:bulb: :heavy_exclamation_mark: "Why should I change my way of working? What is not working in the current way of managing things?"

Leader-follower leadership model is appealing

Officers are rewarded for being indispensable, for being missed after they depart.

When the performance of a unit goes down after an officer leaves, it is taken as a sign that he was a good leader, not that he was ineffective in training his people properly.

Leader-follower induces numbness: it absolves subordinates of the hard work of thinking (people get comfortable with this)

But there's a cost: people who are treated as followers will treat others as followers when it's their turn to lead.


Chapter 13. Who's Responsible?

Mechanism: Eliminate Top-Down Monitoring Systems.

Don't preach and hope for ownership; instead, implement mechanisms that actually give ownership.

If you complain about "lack of ownership" in your employees, but actually defeat any attempt to build ownership, you will fail, and you'll also lose credibility in front of them.

:bulb: :heavy_exclamation_mark: One question you could use when you assess a team's or org's agility is this: "What are you (or your org) doing to give ownership to your employees / teams? What kind of actions are you applying? What practices are you following?"

It's not about eliminating data collection and stop measuring processes. It's about avoiding the systems whereby senior employees are determining what junior personnel should be doing.

When it comes to processes, adherence to the process frequently becomes the objective, as opposed to achieving the objective that the process was put in place to achieve.


Chapter 17. We Learn

“As authority is delegated, technical knowledge at all levels takes on a greater importance. There is an extra burden for technical competence. [...] If all you need to do is what you are told, then you don’t need to understand your craft. However, as your ability to make decisions increases, then you need intimate technical knowledge on which to base those decisions.”


"Clarity means people at all levels of an organization clearly and completely understand what the organization is about."
"This is needed because people in the organization make decisions against a set of criteria that includes what the organization is trying to accomplish.
If clarity of purpose is misunderstood, then the criteria by which a decision is made will be skewed, and suboptimal decisions will be made."

"...writing down our three ship-wide goals in an outgoing message would add clarity to our thinking, keep my bosses informed about what we were doing, and add weight to our initiatives."

Writing goals means committing to each other, and clarifying (to oneself and to their peers) what the real purpose is.
This is why different agile practices works so well:


1) What does XPeppers what to accomplish? Is this shared inside our organization?

2) I should help each team member to explore and declare their personal goals.

Leadership at every level (chapter 23)

The guiding principles provide guidance on decisions.


We take action without direction from above.


We look at new ways of doing the same things. We have the courage to change. We tolerate failures.

Intimate Technical Knowledge


We do the right thing, even if it may be uncomfortable.


We are present when we come to work. We choose to be here.

Continuous Improvement

is how we get better: we continually seek ways to learn and improve


We tell the truth to each other and to ourselves


We encourage others to take action, and support them if they make mistakes.
We explain what we want accomplished, and allow flexibility in how it is accomplished.


We work as a team.


We exercise participative openness: freedom to speak one’s mind.
We exercise reflective openness, which leads to looking inward.
We challenge our own thinking.


We do things on time

Mechanism: Use Guiding Principles for Decision Criteria