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Turn the Ship Around

Turn the Ship Around

David Marquet
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
The book is written by a retired U.S.Navy officer. It starts by detailing his time in the nuclear-powered submarine fleet, where he served on attack submarines and ballistic missile boats. There was an autocratic top-down leadership in place at the time whereby, if an officer saw a problem developing, he was obliged to go up the chain of command to explain what he wanted to do and get permission to accomplish it. The author was criticized for sorting things out his way, at problem level, many times.

In 1998 and in Pearl Harbor, he was given command of the USS ”Santa Fe”, an attack submarine of the “Los Angeles” class. It had the reputation of being the worst ship in the fleet, with poor performance, poor morale and truly dreadful crew retention. However, since he now had the authority do it his way, he gave empowerment and delegation at every level, to junior officers and to the chief petty officers. Initially there was reluctance at every level, because everybody was used to the top-down approach and anything outside of the norm was ignored. However, some of the chiefs were adventurous enough to give it a go, with the effect that everyone else joined in. After six months, ”Santa Fe” was no longer regarded as the black sheep of the family, but as one of the best.

Although this book initially appears like a nuclear-powered collection of Raver’s dits, it is considerably more than that. Throughout the book, the focus is on “leadership”. At the end of every chapter, a horizontal line was drawn underneath the core text and then a succession of questions were posed, along the lines of “What would you do in a situation like that ?”.

It was a hugely enjoyable read but, by virtue of the other core content, a highly thought-provoking one and well worthy of five mushrooms.


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