The Leadership Lessons of the U.S. Navy SEALS | Jeff Cannon

Summary of: The Leadership Lessons of the U.S. Navy SEALS
By: Jeff Cannon


Embark on a journey to learn powerful leadership lessons inspired by the U.S. Navy SEALs in the book ‘The Leadership Lessons of the U.S. Navy SEALS’ by Jeff Cannon. Uncover how Deming’s Total Quality Control methodology and systems mentality can radically improve your organization’s performance. Discover the significance of understanding people and the importance of creating a purpose for your business. Finally, learn how to evaluate and analyze data to make strategic decisions, embrace change and become an effective leader.

The Japanese Secret to Success

W. Edwards Deming was summoned to Japan after WWII by General Douglas MacArthur to teach Japanese manufacturers about American techniques. Deming introduced the concept of Total Quality Control (TQC), which stressed the importance of recognizing that everyone – manufacturers, customers, suppliers – forms part of a large system. The Japanese perfected Deming’s ideas and established long-term relationships with customers, with good managers making good products. Improving products and processes is the best way to decrease costs and increase market share following the chain reaction principle. Japan’s commitment to quality, cooperation, and trust ensured everyone wins when companies view themselves as a system.

Good Leaders Succeed through Profound Knowledge

Businesses are drawn to fads such as empowering teams, but these cannot function without a strong system and good leadership. Great leaders possess skills in systems mentality, knowledge about people, understanding variability, and PDSA-orientation. Managers need to focus on their organizational system to improve performance and become “profound knowledge” exemplars. Their knowledge of their direct reports must stem from sensitivity and understanding rather than from a paternalistic stance. They must study variables that can influence productivity by distinguishing between “common cause variations” and “special cause variations.” Managers must use reliable data to facilitate improvements. A PDSA-orientation teaches the importance of learning, knowledge, information, and data through four steps: planning, doing, studying, and taking action. Management should strive to be experimenters, not petty dictators. By combining human behavior, systems, learning, and variability, managers can achieve a “profound knowledge” to become effective leaders and ultimately better the organization’s performance.

Deming’s Lessons on Effective Management

A manager should be a systems person, take into account the interdependencies of subsystems, methods, and steps. The book presents the SIPOC model – suppliers, input, processes, output, customers – as a useful tool to improve business systems. The suppliers provide input, the processes create output, and the output is delivered to the customers. Understanding and optimizing this interplay allows for effective management and increased business success.

Achieving Synchronization

Have you ever experienced being in sync with your team? That state where everything feels like poetry in motion is called “gemba.” Gemba exists not only in business processes but also in music, dance, and sports. The key to creating “gemba” is by reducing anxiety and boredom among your team and keeping your purpose clear and precise. To achieve it, one must design the workflow, identify primary players, gather resources, standardize best practices, eliminate waste, and develop feedback mechanisms. To track gemba, one can use flowcharts like the Planning Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) chart, the “opportunity flowchart,” or the “deployment flowchart.” Astute managers understand that over 95% of an organization’s problems come from its systems and processes, not individual workers. Achieving gemba requires creating a system with precisely designed process, materials, equipment, training, and staffing levels. By following these six steps, managers can promote gemba, leading to a synchronized team, and successful outcomes.

Purpose-driven Business

Many businesses lack a clear purpose and result in stumbling about aimlessly. The idea of becoming “lean and mean” often results in downsizing and becoming “emaciated and vicious.” The solution lies in systems thinking, to avoid simplistic solutions to complex problems. Great management begins with a clear purpose, by answering questions such as: What is your business? What is it not? Where is it going over the long term? What are your important short-term priorities? What are your basic values and beliefs? A purpose-driven company requires everyone to know and understand the company’s purpose.

Achieving Breakthrough Improvement for Your Organization

Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “Effectiveness is doing the right thing. Efficiency is doing things right,” sets the standard for organizational success. Follow these seven practical steps to achieve a breakthrough improvement in your organization. Recognize the big picture, analyze your capabilities and systems, define your ideal future, and create a plan with priorities. Evaluate what works and become an effective researcher. Find supportive, influential people who are receptive to change and work with them to make improvements. Remember that change is difficult, so don’t waste your time convincing those who resist it.

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