Friday, February 10, 2012

Collective Ownership

Collective Ownership is a rather simple concept founded on the philosophy of a shared commitment to making decisions (and following through on them) based upon the benefit for the greater good. This is not necessarily a democratic model where majority rules, but a model whereby all angles are considered, empathy is commonplace, and strategic thought is paramount. The concepts of collective ownership and cooperative leadership go hand in hand and serve to underpin the actions of many great people, and though related, I will leave the latter to another discussion. Having served almost 20 years in the Cryptologic Community, I have observed that, like most teams, not everyone is equally committed to the philosophy of collective ownership. To this day we see too many examples of "cylinders of excellence", individuals protecting perceived "rice bowls", and Shipmates viewing themselves as helpless victims instead of the problem solving value creators most of us are.

"Cylinders of Excellence" is a somewhat sarcastic term used to describe teams who operate in isolation. They would rather be self-sufficient franchises with duplicative capabilities than part of a larger team with deliberately built interdependencies fostering the growth of complementary expertise. Pointing to any specific organization or team within our larger team as an example is counterproductive to the culture we are strengthening, so we all should refrain. Instead, consider reflecting on your experiences and how the teams in which you have served may have operated as "cylinders of excellence." I go back to my time as a Cryptologic Resource Coordinator (CRC) and the collective ownership model the CRCs across the waterfront enjoyed. We continually shared ideas, offered best practices, and celebrated the successes of others as if they were our own. We saw our responsibility as advancing afloat cryptology across the waterfront over time, not merely within our respective staff during our individual tour. Speaking with current CRCs, I know that philosophy still exists within that peer group. Recent conversations with fellow Commanding Officers make it clear that more than a few are equally committed to this philosophy.

Those of us who have done our share of staff work have likely experienced frustration with others who seem to "Go Native" and lose site as to what we are attempting to accomplish as a community. As members of the Cryptologic COMMUNITY distributed across the Navy and Joint world, we have a shared responsibility to strategically lead, help others to understand our unique capabilities, and create opportunities to both contribute to and build upon our core skills, provided WE believe our actions are in the best interest of the Nation. Our job is not to protect "our baby", keep the command to which we are assigned open, or fence billets which may in fact be based on obsolete requirements. We are not politicians protecting our constituents; we are professional cryptologists who are willing to tell our seniors when they are in fact naked (demanding that our juniors do the same for us), who take pride in advocating against what may superficially appear to be in our command's best interest, and who are committed to facilitating deliberate progress vice merely admiring the problem. We are placed on a given staff because of our individual expertise and that of the community we represent, not to protect "rice bowls" or create hollow pet projects in the name of self-preservation or a (not so) great idea from above.

Being one who takes great pleasure in interacting with people across the community, I have grown somewhat frustrated with the number of us who fail to understand that each of us has the power to make a difference and personally address the issues that we see as most important. Taking permission, seizing opportunity, and deliberately partnering is how some of the most exciting initiatives become reality. I've been to too many working groups where control grade officers and senior enlisted Sailors (among others) talk about issues and dismiss them as something they cannot personally affect. That has changed quite a bit over the last two years (from what I have seen), but we could do even better. I have personally witnessed many great ideas percolate up from the deck plate and transition from idea to action to realization. That said, I have witnessed more of us acknowledge a given issue, complain about the status quo, and expect someone else to address the perceived problem. A culture of collective ownership empowers the individual, asks that we all err on the side of action, and demands that none of us constrain ourselves by our rank or job title.

There is no doubt that we are a community made up of great people who continue to do amazing things. Just imagine what a seamless culture of collective ownership could deliver to OUR Nation, OUR Navy, OUR Shipmates, and lastly OURselves. Let that be OUR legacy!

1 comment:

  1. Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170)February 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    What a great post! I recently had the opportunity to an answer some questions a friend had about the Submarine Community. He was thinking about changing his service selection to Submarines...and he ultimately did. Some of his questions were about the could-be-negative things if you will regarding our community, i.e career paths, nukedom, physical fitness attitude, leadership styles, etc. And my response to him was -- Let's change it together!

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