As I write this a very exciting day is dawning over Fife ... The culmination, for many, of a huge amount of teamwork and cooperation as the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is launched in Rosyth.
Many of my readers will already know of my naval connections as I served in the WRNS for nearly 10 years in the 80s and 90s. Therefore it is with a huge amount of pride, and happy memories of serving at Rosyth, that I will be taking an extra special interest in the launch of this new and mighty battleship.
It must have been an extraordinary project to be involved with both in terms of vision and engineering genius. The building project alone is quite unique as it has been a collaboration between three different organisations: the Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems and Babcock International.
I expect the statistics of the cost, the weaponry, the staffing and the capacity of this floating town will be filling the papers tomorrow but I am more interested in the teamwork that culminates in the production of such a vessel as well as the teamwork required to work and live closely together that an organisation like the Royal Navy creates and expects.
For any organisation we need people to work well together and get on with each other to produce the product or service. So what lessons can we learn from the launch of this mighty warship?
Firstly we need to plan ahead. Managers need to be very clear about what they are trying to achieve, where they are heading, how they are going to get there and consider the resources they need to get there. So planning is critical whether you are building an aircraft carrier or fundraising, providing a public service or producing a new product. Without a plan of what we are trying to achieve and where we are hoping to get to we will surely fail. Failure to plan; plan to fail - it is so true.
Secondly, we need to learn the importance that communication plays in teamwork - not just in giving the instructions and making sure that staff are really clear about what is expected of them, but also communication between team members. We need to communicate the plan clearly, ensuring that everyone involved really understands what is required of them, that they have the skills to deliver their tasks, that they know who to speak to if they need clarification of their roles, that they know the timescales for delivering their part in the tasks. The skill of communication is probably worthy of a separate blog all on its own but here I am merely touching on the main competences.
Finally, leadership is vital. The Royal Navy, as with many large organisations, invests a large amount of time and money in nurturing its leaders. They attend various leadership courses to enable them to develop the skills of communicating, planning, making decisions, leading in difficult situations, motivating their team, striving to reach that goal. They are well trained, empowered to make decisions, coached and appraised, just like those involved in achieving the build of this warship.
I think there are many lessons we can learn in considering the development of our team leaders - how much do we invest in their development? How much do we nurture them? do we truly empower them to make and take decisions even if they get it wrong? Do we really have a learning, supportive culture or do we say we empower our staff only to quash them with poor planning and poorer communication? Leading and developing our staff are inherent in what we expect of our team leaders - are you?
PS. I wonder which malt whisky they used to launch the ship?