Big Navy – that is, the Secretary, Chief of Naval Operations and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy – recently announced major changes to enlisted career paths. Frankly, the topic is a little esoteric for the audience here as I understand it, but the process produced a couple “change management” notes that you can put in your back pocket for later (courtesy of an in-depth article in Navy Times).
As brief background, just consider that certain naval job titles – boatswain’s mate, gunner’s mate, quartermaster, yeoman – have existed since the founding of the U.S. Navy in the 18th Century. However, as of two weeks ago, those titles are now eliminated for official purposes and all enlisted Sailors are to be addressed simply by their rank. Whatever the merits, this is a major shock.
Lesson No. 1: Don’t Show the Boss a Throw-Away Option
Often, when people have to present the boss with courses of action, they’ll put two or three that are reasonable and/or achievable, and then something outlandish just to pad their overall numbers. Every leadership or staff officer course, ever, will say not to do that – but of course it still happens.
Secretary of the Navy Mabus requested options for eliminating the word “man” from job titles (never mind the gender-neutral definition of “man” in such contexts; not everyone can be troubled to read a dictionary). So, Navy leadership provided him four options, ranging from simply changing certain jobs’ names to the vast reform actually selected.
Does anyone get the feeling SECNAV picked the throw-away?
Lesson No. 2: Transition Time – Please
This policy went into effect the day it was announced, with no warning. Who would ever advise an organization to do that? With no time to prepare or gain any understanding of how to manage their future careers (not to mention the cultural impact), there is rather significant pushback from the enlisted force. Despite the high-level cover, the lack of grassroots support leaves open the possibility for some major revisions. The immediacy of the announcement and policy change – the details of which are still very much up in the air – undercut its legitimacy, and it will be very difficult to ever restore it to move this thing forward.
It is worth noting, some goodness follows under the headline-making changes. Additional career options and training pipelines for enlisted members are positive. Hopefully that doesn’t get lost as the rating changes go back and forth.
Lastly, I don’t know if there are any publicly-held tattoo companies, but if so, their stocks have probably taken a dive lately!
UPDATE: Aaaaaaaaaaaand it’s been reversed. Ratings are restored. I have only two words to say: Utterly. Predictable.