The Harry S. Truman, Part 1 of 3
Written By Dan Hoffman
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining a group of eight CEO’s for a weekend on the Harry Truman, a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, during training exercises in the Atlantic. We were hosted by Rear Admiral Fox, Captain Clarkson and his officers. Since it is now Fleet Week in NYC, I felt especially fortunate to be afforded this opportunity. Aside from the thrill of our C-2 cargo plane taking off and landing by catapult and hook-wire on the Harry S. Truman 1(video), the trip triggered thoughts about culture, management and technology.
The Navy has a CULTURE with all caps! Both the officers and sailors leave you with a sense that the strength of our military has less to do with hardware than with character. True, the robot-controlled Gatling gun that vaporizes targets with 90 big bullets per second was scary. But the real strength comes from a culture that instills and reinforces a great sense of responsibility and a very high level of trust between colleagues. This is unlike anything I’ve seen in the private sector, and it inspired me to think about what’s possible.
Admiral Fox, one of the few pilots to have shot down a MiG, was reading Covey’s recent business book
Speed to Trust. Fox says he rose through the ranks by following the advice “take off and land your plane, every time. Do exactly what you are supposed to do, don't make a big deal of it, and the right people will notice.” He handed us his personal core values, which are all about responsibility, strive hard to be trustworthy, and seemed fiercely proud of the equipment, comrades and mission they are protecting.
Master Chief Walker was another incredible character study. 47 years old, with a thick southern accent, he has risen over 30 years to be one of the top 20 enlisted men out of 300,000+ (ish) in the Navy. 5,000 men report to Walker. He claims that but one of them can run a mile faster than him. His philosophy: “Integrity means who you are on
Saturday night is who you are Sunday morning.” He rewards men with a touch on the arm and a friendly question about their families (video), whose names he tries to know. To the Master Chief, our force strength is anchored in family. After retirement in a year, he’s planning to become a marriage counselor.
The XO gave us his version of the same theme, retelling the story of how Harry Truman started his political career. Truman owned a Haberdashery in Iowa. It failed. Instead of seeking bankruptcy protection, he took years to pay every single creditor back. Word spread of his extraordinary character, and someone talked him into a judgeship.
When I returned to shore, I discovered that eight M5 employees had military experience. I hosted a lunch to discuss the relevance of this military culture to M5. I’ll write about this, and sex and drinking on an Aircraft Carrier, in part two. In part three, I’ll hit the MOST exciting subject: phone technology on the carrier.