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July 23, 2009 at 11:10 am #76352
Rather insightful commentary which I believe has application across a much broader spectrum than the Department of Navy…
Time to Think
Published, June 30, 2009
I recently attended the Current Strategy Forum hosted by the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps all spoke along with many prominent scholars and authors. The discussion was about maritime strategy and its intersection with both national security and the world economy. I am always in awe when I am in the presence of such magnificent leaders. It truly is the time to sit, listen and learn.
During this conference, CNO Adm. Gary Roughead said senior leaders should take the time to think — really think. Leaders are charged with developing strategies to solve issues on a large scale, he said, and need time to process information and weigh all available options. I was struck by this as I have heard former CNOs Vernon Clark and Michael Mullen make similar statements.
I have strongly advocated to my staff taking time to think. And it dawned on me, how much time during my normal week do I spend thinking about the future and how best to shape the Department’s path to becoming more connected and more effective in delivering information? As I am thinking and strategizing about the future, what information do I need to inform my thoughts and decisions? And how do I normally access the information I need to make decisions and to strategize?
Then I thought about one of my first bosses in the Department. He believed that you had to be at your desk “doing something” in order to be productive. Imagine smoke coming from my pencil point as I feverishly worked some problem. Had I been sitting there thinking about next steps for my project, he might have seen me as daydreaming or goofing off. I imagine that had the Internet been widely available at that time, he would have viewed searching for information as unproductive web surfing. But walking the corridors of the tech library — an inefficient exercise to say the least — would not have been in his opinion.
Some experts say that managers should spend 30 percent to 40 percent and senior executives upwards of 60 percent to 70 percent of their time thinking through strategies. In fact, the more senior one becomes, the more important strategic thinking becomes.
I am constantly reminded by my staff just how busy my schedule is. But I did pause to reflect on how much time I spend thinking, and suffice it to say, it is not as much as I should.
The arrival of the Information Age has accelerated our ability to access information via the Internet and other digital resources, process it and take appropriate actions faster and more effectively than ever before. In fact, information overload is a real issue today that did not exist in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s. The paradox of spending time thinking while considering vastly more information sometimes boggles the mind. As IT leaders in the Department, our value is founded in our ability to spend the right amount of time thinking and then putting strategies in motion to execute and ensure that mission outcomes are achieved.
July 23, 2009 at 3:20 pm #76354
Thanks for this post Henry!!
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