The ladder of control – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea thanks to

David Marquet, Captain of the USS Santa Fe, followed a leadership principle – push authority to as low a level as possible. Under normal practice, officers would “request permission to” perform operations such as submerge the ship. The captain would approve and the officer would carry out the task.

David insisted his officers move up the ladder of control (below), stop asking permission, and instead state “Captain, I intend to submerge the ship” to which he would respond, “very well.” Initially, he had a lot of questions for the officers about whether it was safe, whether the preconditions were met, whether the team was ready, and whether it was the right thing to do. With time, he asked fewer and fewer questions as the officers learned to provide that necessary information at the same time they stated their intent.

The immediate and obvious benefit was that with this small shift in language, just a few words really, the officers became the driving force behind the submarine’s operations.

Perhaps we ought to consider moving our teams up the ladder of control as well..

Ladder of control

Source and thanks to:

‘Moving people from “request permission” to “I intend to…” raised them one rung on the ladder of control, from passive followers doing what they were told at the bottom to proactive engaged leaders, crafting the future, at the top. ‘ | David Marquet