adrift on a cosmic ocean

Writings on various topics (mostly technical) from Oliver Hookins and Angela Collins. We currently reside in Sydney after almost a decade in Berlin, have three kids, and have far too little time to really justify having a blog.

Micro book review: Turn The Ship Around

Posted by Oliver on the 15th of March, 2020 in category Thoughts
Tagged with: Books

Turn The Ship Around! Turn The Ship Around by L. David Marquet is something that had been on my radar (no pun intended) for some time, but was also recommended to me early last year by my then manager. The context was - how to delegate more in the journey in leadership to higher levels of management. I think at the time I was trying to come to grips with the team I had at the time, which was doing a lot of difficult technical work that I felt I didn't understand much.

Of course, for many people in Engineering Management positions (especially the "front line" positions in development teams), you are expected to be hands-off, but also accountable for delivery and technical health. Delegate too much, or don't get involved enough, and you are in danger of not knowing enough to deliver on the expectations of the role - and I'm not talking about writing code. I definitely struggled with this all of last year with the three different teams I was leading at various times.

But back to the book - I was expecting some kind of macho, male stereotype of military leadership with strict rules and protocols that are enforced through veiled violence and fear of consequences. To be fair, the military and navy organisations certainly have their share of processes and protocols - they are commanding billions of dollars worth of equipment, and - whether you agree with their tasks or not - the potential to harm very many people if things go wrong (or right). The lessons in the book were more around how to empower (yes, it's an overused word) those around you so that you as the person "in power" don't have to make all of the decisions.

In short, it's a book about delegation and how to do it more effectively - even in high-pressure situations. It uses a lot of examples from the author's time commanding one of the worst submarines in the navy (at the time), and as such it's an easy-to-read, compelling story. It reads more like a novel than a heavy management tome. Probably something I'd recommend to someone a year or two in to their management journey, rather than one of the first books, but I'd recommend it nonetheless.

Four out of five bananas.

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