business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Last week, it was widely reported that the US Navy accepted delivery of what was described as the most technologically advanced and complex warship ever built - the USS Zumwalt, a 610-foot stealth destroyer that cost $4 billion to construct. (You can see the picture at right.)

I was on the US Navy site, reading about the Zumwalt, and found a piece by Rear Adm. James Downey, who supervised the building of the Zumwalt for more than 2,000 days.

"Building a first-of-class ship is no small feat, and this team faced their share of challenges in doing so,"Downey writes. "Inspiration, however, was never one of them. Adm. Elmo 'Bud' Zumwalt Jr., whose name will forever be inscribed on the ship’s stern, was a man who led by inspiration. He inspired people, ideas, change and innovation, and he was a firm believer that it has always been and will always be the people that set our great Navy apart from the rest."

Downey also writes that, among the many lessons he learned during the project, there were a couple that stand out. And I thought they stood out as lessons that could be applied to many business, and worth sharing here.

"Much of the success of this program is based on taking calculated risk and owning that risk. After Adm. Zumwalt assumed his role as CNO, he told his staff, 'My basic philosophy is, if a proposed change is in doubt, make it and see what happens. It is easy to get a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t do something…change it and see how loud the screams are'.”

"As practiced by this ship’s namesake, value your people. Technology and capability change by the minute. What doesn’t change is the drive and the dedication of the people you are leading. They are your greatest investment."

I love these lessons. Embrace change, and see how loud the screams are. And know that one's people are always greater change agents than technology.

Eye-Openers, I think.

One other quick note. Considering how other-worldly the USS Zumwalt looks, it strikes me as kind of poetic the name of the man who commands the ship.

Captain James Kirk.


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