Give authority to those closest to the information

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 08-17-16

The following video was recently shared with me, and it reminding me of hearing the speaker in person. It’s a great story. It is the story of Captain David Marquet, Commander of a nuclear submarine, which is an environment that is perhaps least tolerance of leadership failures, and therefore a difficult place to try something new. But that’s exactly what the Captain did. Here’s the video:

A key point that is consistent with lean thinking is to give authority to those closest to the information. That sounds obvious, but the counter argument to it is give authority to those most capable of the decision. That is why the Captain gets to make the decisions, because they are at least perceived as most capable. Are they? Maybe. But here’s the problem: they don’t have all the information because they are not closest to all the information. It’s literally impossible to be, even in the relatively contained environment of a submarine with a control room.

So which problem will be easier to solve? Get the most capable individual all of the information, or get the most informed people the capability.

Most people don’t see this as the choice, and so the choice is made unintentionally. When you decide to get all the information to the (perceived) most capable person, then your organization is run with reports, PowerPoint, reviews, and meetings. When you decide to give the capability to those who are informed, your organization is run by coaching, empowerment, and engagement. You decide! Captain Marquet has made his decision.

If you would like to buy his book, here it is: