Steam Will Replace Sails? Madness!!! Reply

An Ohio class submarine slips its mooring next to the Delta pier in Bangor Washington.

Silently, she glides down the flat calm waters of the Hood Canal on her way to the open ocean.

Ohio on the surface

This five hundred sixty foot vessel will soon submerge and begin her primary mission. For over fifty years, ships like this have provided an umbrella of security for the nation and freedom loving people everywhere. The very threat she represents have ensured that no one during the entire history of Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines has ever launched a nuclear missile against us.

From the US Navy Fact files:

“The Navy’s fleet ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as “Boomers,” serve as an undetectable launch platform for intercontinental missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth and the precision delivery of nuclear warheads.
Ohio class SSBNs can carry up to 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with multiple independently-targeted warheads. The SSBN’s strategic weapon is the Trident II D5 missile, which provides increased range and accuracy over the now out-of-service Trident I C4 missile.”

Iowa Forward shot

The subs are shorter and considerably less tonnage than the biggest battleships ever built, yet have more potential firepower than all other ships combined. In fact The Trident D-5 missile can potentially carry up to eight 14,300-kiloton W-87 warheads mounted in Mk. 5 re-entry vehicles – meaning that a single Ohio-class submarine of today has the potential to unleash more destructive power than has been used in all of the wars in the world’s history.


Incredibly, just a short 100 years ago, the dream of having a truly submersible vessel almost died on the drawing table. As strange as it may seem from our vantage point today, there were powerful forces in the US Navy that wanted nothing to do with the little experiments that John Holland, Simon Lake and others were trying to promote.

To understand the mentality of the Naval and Civilian leaders who were making those decisions, you have to understand the history of the US Navy technology for the hundred years prior to the first submarine. Even the press of the time questioned the little boat’s significance. From the New York Times “Holland may or may not play an important part in the navies of the world in the years to come.” As one author put it, the Times was “no better at predicting than it is today” (Admiral William J. Crowe). Truthfully, from writings of the time, most of the Naval Officer Corps considered the new invention to be somewhat of a nuisance which stole money and manpower away from really important projects that fit more into the Navy’s vision at the time.

As I was researching this, it occurred to me more and more that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Leadership often is the major stumbling block to any innovative process and especially to lean principles. Like the Navy of old, many university trained engineers who become leaders in plants and business units lack the vision to see beyond the tools they have been taught to embrace. I have seen and heard scoffing from so many of these “leaders” though the years it is almost pitiable. Imagine the progress that could have been made with the same kind of vision our early submariners had.

Naval engineers

The Navy had actually gone through many massive and powerful changes fifty years before the first submarine. They had gone from wooden ships to armor clad fortresses. Steam replaced sail as the primary propulsion. Newer technologies like electricity and wireless radio made the ships virtually independent of a need for out of date technologies that were both cumbersome and in some cases dangerous. The US Navy in 1900 had just won a global campaign that firmly established itself as a sea power (The Spanish American War). Pride filled every wardroom as the ships came home to an adoring public.

Now along come two rather experimental ideas clamoring for attention (and the decreasing pot of money a peace time Navy was faced with): submarines and ship born aircraft. How dare these youngster try and challenge one of the most powerful Navy’s that was solidly embedded in the philosophy of Mahan and surface to surface battles that they had spent most of their lives perfecting!


Here is the rub: the DNA of the leadership had been molded and polished to overcome the previous technology and one of the provisions of that polishing was to abandon alternate methods. If you want to be successful in something, you must convince yourself that your way is the most superior and all others will not meet the challenges the same way yours will. In the case of the leadership in 1900, they were of the firm conviction that fighting a surface action with dreadnaughts and cruisers under steam would carry the day. Their training was focused on that, their equipment was designed around that, and their men were trained to follow the orders of their officers without question.


They did not come to their view without some level of resistance from the previous generation. A sailing ship was at one time considered to be the very best way to carry the fight to the enemy. In doing my research, I found that many old time Officers hated the idea of steam so much, they threw every obstacle they could in its way. They were so convincing that the politicians of the day restricted funding and resources to the upstart technology. Those admirals considered steam to be the ruination of the Navy. Sailors who did not have to climb the masts and unfurl the sails in any weather would quickly become lazy and slovenly. Sailing skills would become lost as the new propulsion took hold. Steam was dirty and really fouled up those nice white sails as well.

Talk about holding on to the

past with all your might!


This ship is one of three authorized by congress for the “New Navy” in 1883           USS Atlanta, USS Boston, and USS Chicago (pictured here)

Even though steam propulsion was proving itself globally, the Old Guard still clung on tenaciously to their beliefs. Note the rigging on this “New” type of ship. It was so bad that if the Captain made a decision to use his boilers rather than sails, he was required by Naval Regulations to make the log entry in RED and report the action immediately upon return to home port with a full explanation why he chose to take this action.

Fortunately for the nation, dreamers and the new realities of technological change finally forced the Navy to adapt to the new technologies. Two World Wars probably helped as well, but even those produced leaders who wanted to cling onto their own version of “sail power”. Looking at the development of the Nuclear Submarine Program, you will find the usual history of two steps forward, one step back because of old ideas. Thankfully, those ideas outlived their time as well.

Organizational DNA is a hard thing to change, but it is possible

You really have two choices in trying to effect a systemic change. You can plant seeds in the newer generation and wait for the new DNA to come into power. Or, you can seek out and engage the visionary that lives in every person at some level. One takes time and the other takes effort. Both take a large helping of patience.

There are some really great change strategies out there and I will be happy to share them with you if you inquire. In the meantime, take a hard look at your strategy and current way of doing things. Are you still clinging onto the sails or are you ready to look for that next great leap in technology. Thanks for visiting today! Don’t forget to bookmark it and return for new adventures in lean submarining.

Mr. Mac

Ohio bow shot

Escape to Freedom – Submarine Escape and Rescue 5

The Buoyant Ascent

The tower at the US Naval Submarine Base was one of the most memorable features of the Groton, Conn. Skyline. Submariners from the past who trained there will always remember that tower as one of the defining points in their submarine journey. This tower was used to prepare us for the day when leaving a perfectly good submarine may be the only way to survive to fight another day. For most of us in that age, it was indeed a right of passage that marked the point where we were no longer Sub School students to real submarine candidates.


The tower was the place where we learned the basics of escape from a disabled sunken “Boat”. For most of us that actually had to go through this test…this 125 foot tall tower built a new self confidence and courage. Not going through with this could be a disqualifying event and frankly no one that I went through Sub School with wanted to be disqualified. But I have to tell you that the weeks leading up to the day we would go in the tank were pretty intimidating. I didn’t want to admit it, but the whole idea of going inside that tank and making a buoyant ascent was a personal test I was not sure I would be able to do.

A “buoyant ascent” is when a person surfaces from a depth of 50 or 100 feet underwater using ONLY the air in his lungs wearing a Steinke Hood (a specially designed hood that kept your head dry and allowed you to see the light at the top of the tower).

The real value of the tank training (and the recompression chamber usually done just before) was automatically weeding out claustrophobes. You really didn’t want to find out a guy was space crazy as the submarine starts a 60 day patrol.

Dressed in just our Navy issued swim trunks, we would proceed to the top of the tower where we were greeted by this site looking down into the water:

Inside the dive tower

Once you became familiarized with your surroundings and instructed for the 10th time on just what to do and what not to do…you descended to a “pressurized Escape trunk” 50 foot under the surface

Inside the escape chamber

The rule was simple: ‘raise your hand and we’ll let you out.’ We had one guy in my lock group do so, we vented and drained down, out he went, and he was moved out of the barracks by the time we got back two hours later – never saw him again.

Once in the 50 foot “escape trunk” with your instructor, the outer hatch was closed and you received your last set of safety instructions. The escape trunk was then filled with water just a little over your chin (if you were 5’11” tall) and the hatch to the inside of the tank was opened.

You ducked through the hatchway into the tank and you were now 50 feet below the surface, where you were then greeted by Navy divers who, for safety reasons were stationed at various points along the way. Once outside the Escape trunk the first thing you saw was a large “No Smoking” sign just above the hatchway. Believe me when I tell you that smoking was the last thing you were thinking about at that point.

Coming out party

The Submariner would then grab a bar on the side of the tank, arch his back so he was looking straight up through 50 feet of water above him…and then let go….the ascent had started. The air in your lungs would carry you to the surface.

If you held your breath the air in your lungs would continue to expand as you went up. There was a strong potential that you would permanently damage your lungs between that level and the surface if you did not do it properly. In our case, we were taught to say the words “HO HO HO” as loud as we could all the way to the surface. The trip took about 8 seconds. The Navy safety divers were placed at key points and if they saw you holding your breath, they would catch you and encourage you to breath by punching you in the diaphragm. In worst case scenarios, you would have to be placed in an air chamber and gradually brought back to the surface over a very long period.

If everything went as planned and you did exactly as you were trained, you would arrive at the surface with a brand new sense of self confidence and experienced an adrenalin high better than any amusement park ride could produce.

At the top

Life is like that sometimes. You find yourself forced to leave the comfort of your existing surroundings and you find yourself staring straight into the open escape hatch. The fear you have as you prepare to let go can be staggering. Some people just stand in the hatch frozen with a sense of foreboding. But eventually, life pushes you out. You are in the tower now and all that training, all the preparation and all of your skills will be put to the test.

There will be people along the way to help but in the end, it is completely up to you to master the ascent. The message of the day is as wild of a ride as it can be, you don’t want to miss it. Let go of the bar, hold your hands together over your head, look up and shout as if your life depended on it! Don’t stop until you reach the top. (That was almost 40 years ago and I still feel the rush).


Mister Mac

New pictures added 3/30/2015

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Waiting 2

Ask any submariner what one of the most common statements they hear from non-submariners is “Oh I couldn’t do what you do (or did in some
of our cases)”. The reasons are as varied as the people who make that statement. Fear of confinement, fear of the unknown, fear of being crushed or drowned, or fear of the isolation that a few months of being underwater holds in store for you. Ask most submariners what they dislike the most about boat service and you may find that the reason actually has nothing to do with any of those things. Most of the time, the real enemy is “Waiting”.

Since we are locked up in a long metal tube that is closed on both ends, waiting plays an integral part of each day. The submarines’ main mission is stealth and being ready to perform missions we pray will never be called upon to perform. The few times were things get dicey are few and far between (thankfully). Having ridden out a few typhoons and hurricanes in my days on the boats, I can assure you that unplanned depth excursions are indeed quite exhilarating. Finding yourself too near an uncharted underwater mountain or nearing a reef that appears out of no where can also lead to some fairly interesting days. Even test firing a missile or torpedo can bring its own special “thrills” as all of the potential things that could go wrong rush through your head. One of my favorite memories from years ago was feeling the rush of a Polaris missile leaving its tube on its way to a small unnamed island in the Pacific (we were within 25 feet of the designated target according to very reliable sources).

But waiting is an art that all submariners have to develop over time. They don’t teach you about it in sub school nor is it discussed in any of the school of the boat sessions you sit through. Truthfully, you actually learn the basics of waiting in Boot Camp. All sailors (and I presume our brothers and sisters in the “other” services, learn how to wait while standing, sitting, propped up against something vertical, or sitting on your backside. We learn to wait in the rain, in the snow, in chow lines, in the hot sun, in un-air-conditioned buildings and on the decks of pretend ships.


Then, when you have practiced the art of waiting long enough, you complete your training and head to your first boat. Waiting starts from the first day. You find yourself waiting to get a bunk of your own. Yep, some evil genius decided that sleeping is for “Qualified” people and all others should learn to hug a torpedo or even worse, share a rack with one of their brothers on a rotating basis known as “Hot Racking”.  (Once upon a time I literally did this with my actual brother Tom – a fellow A-ganger)

Next, you get to reminisce the glory days of basic training as you realize that no submarine ever built can feed the entire crew at once. Qualified men and watch standers of course get priority and of course the Chiefs and Officers have their own designated spaces. Funny thing though, even some of them have to wait for a second sitting. The only relief for a non-qual is when he is assigned to mess cooking duties. Very little waiting involved with that job except the general waiting involved with wishing it was over.

The sub heads to sea and in most cases the next wait is to find out where you are going. In some cases, enough people know the general direction but for junior rates, rumors are the stuff of life. If there were any political situations that had arisen before leaving, that might be the focus. But for most younger sailors, it was really about where, how long, when do we get home. Once the destination and general timeframes are published, the wait to get there starts. Again, this is broken up with field days, general drills, qualifications, and watchstanding. But there are mini periods of “wait” associated with each of these. In the old days when we relied on family grams to hear fro the outside world, this was one of the hardest waits of all. Not hearing from a girlfriend or wife over a period for weeks could drive a guy absolutely crazy. Waiting to hear about the imminent delivery of a new baby was also a challenging wait for young Dad’s to be.

The crazy thing about waiting was the amount of time spent on measuring how long the wait would be. Many boat sailors would maintain “short-timer’s” calendars. Its not bad enough that you know you have 60 plus days under the water, but some knuckle heads think it’s a good idea to count each one off one day at a time. I can tell you that many a case of channel fever has been driven by the thirst for time measurement.

What about you? Have you mastered the art of time measurement or time management? I have worked in so many locations were people were really well rewarded for their time. Yet somehow over time, they have developed a sort of numbness to what could be happening during that time. Maybe it was a bad manager or management team that caused the abandonment. Maybe it was the effect of other people around them that had numbed them through their efforts or minimal contributions. But a sad fact of life is that some of the most well paid employees I have ever worked with could give you an accurate accounting at any point in the day of how much time they had left in their day of work or in their march to retirement. Instead of being a part of a force that could extend the life of the enterprise (and maybe even personally enrich themselves and their teams) they became part of the weight that drags an organization down. Pretty sad when you think about it.

So is waiting a waste? If you are speaking purely from a lean perspective, yes it is. If you are speaking from a submarine perspective, it’s a non-value added but probably unavoidable waste. But if you are in a sticky situation that seems to have no realistic solutions at hand, it can actually be both rewarding and renewing.

One of my favorite verses of Scripture has always been Isaiah 40 verse 31: but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I forgot to mention that I have observed something as I have reengaged with many of my old shipmates from the five submarines I served on… I have been amazed at how many have found a renewed faith. As a person whose own faith was submerged at varying points along the way, it was worth the wait to see.

Mr. Mac

Tracy Arm Special

We’re doing 5S… Isn’t that Lean? Reply

We’re doing 5S… Isn’t that Lean?

Good news, bad news. The good news is that 5S (or 6S if you want to lump safety into the pot for convenience sake) is the traditional first step in many lean implementations. The bad news is that if you are doing it as a standalone without linkage to the main principles of lean, you may just be irritating your workforce for no good reason. Experience has shown that 5S is merely a tool in the overall process of implementing lean. But implementing without a thought to linkage with the other principles is one of the cardinal sins of lean implementation. There must be some design and planning that allow the process to flow.

A quick review will show us what 5S looks like on the surface.   5S is a process for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, safe and high performance workplace.  Most organizations view 5S as a logical place to start. The journey often starts as a result of a strategic analysis of how a
business is meeting the customer’s needs.  The four basic understandings are:

  • Our customer needs are constantly changing
    (technology, designs, applications, global forces, economic upheavals and so on)
  • Companies compete to meet these needs (unless your
    product or service is uniquely patented, someone else is probably out there
    trying to do it better)
  • To survive, our company must stay competitive
    (be assured that your competition has already had this conversation and may
    even be years ahead of you on a continuous improvement journey)
  • This means improving our products and services
    to lower our costs, increase our quality, speed development to delivery and
    innovation. None of these are possible if you are surrounded by waste that
    consumes your energy, time and resources.

The five “S”s (in the English language) are Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. These are five actionable steps that a workplace can achieve using a plan and the right level of support.  In most cases, the start of the implementation is planned around a “pilot project” that is managed using work center resources and some additional support from the maintenance and leadership groups.

The most successful programs I  have participated in are the ones that start with the end in mind. If you are going to all the trouble of mounting a major effort to change the landscape, what is your plan to sustain it over the distance? There is an old saying in business:  what gets measured gets done.  Part of the plan for any 5S project should list all of the steps along the way and what are some of the expected achievements. Have you really thought about that or are you just moving forward because your CEO read the latest trends in the business magazine on his last flight?

5S is a deceptively simple  process. Like any activity, hundreds of books and probably tens of thousands of articles can tell you a cookie cutter approach to putting it in place. Very few that I have read ever actually scratch the surface of all of the dynamics involved with actually doing an activity though. If people were machines, none of what I am about to say would be important. But at the heart of this, asking people to implement something they are not already doing involves “change”.

Change is a six letter word but it  might as well be a four letter word in the way it is most often perceived. Go into any workplace today and you will find a form of “accidental 5S”. The workers have already designed their work spaces to a certain extent in order to meet the existing goals. They will have placed the extra inventory they need in a conveniently non-visible storage location that escapes the casual glance of the hapless supervisor. Their tools will be squirreled away to prevent other workers from “borrowing” them in a pinch. There will be cast off pieces of
furniture left over from the last office redecoration brightly covered with various forms of duct tape and extra padding for those long shifts. Most
significantly you will see a clean path between the areas of travel (surrounded by ground in dirt that dates to the Stone Age).

Now here you come with a new process that asks them to destroy the very comfort level they have built over the years. I can tell you that although people often talk about the need for “change” not a single one of them at a visceral level wants to actually change. Since they are already making do in the existing climate why is there a need for any of these new changes?

I would suggest that until you are  ready to deal with the human element and you properly prepare them, your textbooks on Lean will serve you better as a door stop.

The most amazing thing about the misapplication of 5S is the idea that somehow the “clean and shine” are the most important parts.

There are actually two things that 5S should be doing for you. First, the process itself is a way to build individual and team discipline. The harder tools will come later and if you do not have a very disciplined team that can work its way through the smaller struggles presented by maintaining a 5S attitude, you will never succeed when the going gets really tough. Just as an example, standardized work across a shift or multiple shifts is one of the most mind numbingly difficult parts of any lean implementation. If you don’t believe me, do a simple test. Go out to any of your work stations now and ask to see a work instruction. Have a worker explain to you how they use it (or not). Then go to another worker and ask the
same question. Finally, put both workers together and ask them to explain which is better. Warning: Bring armor and a face shield.

Beyond building discipline, the second most important part of 5S is building a force of people who think with a problem solving mentality. Seeing everything in its place and highly visible creates a problem solving environment. How much waste is consumed each day as workers look for missing tools or equipment at the start of each shift? How many conflicts are avoided because the things needed to accomplish the work are
readily available? Workers who are angry are not very efficient problem solvers. The amount of energy consumed each day in petty feuds and disagreements is stunning. You will find it difficult to impossible to move forward as a business if all of your workers energy is consumed with looking backwards.

My final suggestion on 5S is that you should move forward with determination but not desperation. Since you are dealing with people and people are complicated, having a road map does not mean having a series of artificial deadlines. Your goal should always be to have a self sustaining program that builds the discipline and problems solving skills you will need for the harder parts of the journey.

If you are implementing 5S without an eye towards preparing for the other principles of lean (BIQ, JIT, CI, and Teamwork), you are wasting your time and energy.

The mantra for 5S is “A place for everything and everything in its place” Nothing could be truer for a submarine during its day to day operations. We are trained to fight in the dark if need be and battle any casualty with our eyesight limited. Each sailor learns the location of every valve, every key breaker, every tool, every lifesaving device and every hatch. When you are riding along at full speed in pursuit of a potential “hostile” there are no second guesses when it comes to operating the critical equipment. When there is a fire in the galley, there are no “do-over’s” if the flames reach the bulkhead and travel into the radio room.

If you truly want to be successful, you should imagine the same rules for your business. If you fail to implement, you will never be able to integrate. If you fail to integrate, your innovation will be stilted and in many cases non-existent. It is hard to prepare for the future if you are constantly reacting to the past. A good 5S program as part of a comprehensive plan will help you do all three with more efficiency.

Mr. Mac

The Birth of the First Civilian Submarine 1


The Birth of the First Civilian Submarine

While we were on our last trip, I stopped by a used book  store and found a book that had been a part of my life growing up. In my Grandfather’s library was a collection of books called “Source Records of the  Great War”. These books were collected documents about the events that were  part of World War 1 from the viewpoint of the actual participants.
Unfortunately, out of all of the books, only the year 1916 was in the store. While I was reading it last night, I uncovered a piece of submarine history  that I was not aware of despite years of reading and presenting submarine  talks. An even happened in 1916 that had the potential to change the way submarines could be used in the future.

On July 9, 1916 the captain of the German submarine Deutschland,  Paul Koenig, docked in the United States. This submarine was very unique since it had been built by a civilian company to transport goods across the ocean. She was truly a merchantman, and therefore carried no munitions or instruments of war. The most significant part of the voyage at that time was the discovery of the German’s newfound ability to send submarines across the Atlantic.

Needless to say, the belligerent nations viewed this event as a significant change in the global picture. Remember that the modern submarine force at that time was still limited in its ability to travel the globe.


The Deutschland was the world’s first merchant submarine.

It was the first time an undersea ship could travel on a long voyage with her own fuel, provisions and a cargo. She was much larger than the submarines of 1914 and more powerful in every way. The facts of her development were considered to be a significant scientific and technological triumph for her builders. Lessons learned form that first of six ships would later be used to construct the horribly awesome German fleets that could have tipped the balance in both World Wars.

She was constructed without armaments, with a wide beam  to provide space for cargo. The cargo capacity was 700 tons (230 tons of rubber  could be stored in the free-flooding spaces between the inner and outer hulls.), relatively small compared to surface ships. Of the seven merchant subs planned only two were completed according to the original design: the Deutschland and the Bremen, which was lost without a trace on her maiden voyage.

While the U.S. government allowed merchant vessels from all warring nations to dock at U.S. ports and to freely trade, in practice Britain’s dominance of the seas ensured that Germany was effectively excluded from the U.S. market. So the arrival of the Deutschland threatened to challenge Britain’s naval blockade, at least so far as trade with the U.S. was

Britain, in a joint statement with the other Allied governments, quickly sent a note of protest to the U.S. government arguing that submarines should not be regarded as merchant vessels. In support of this argument the Allies suggested that as a submarine could not be stopped and inspected for munitions in the same manner as other vessels, her real intentions could not be verified.

The U.S. government – under constant pressure from the German government because of suspected favoritism granted to the Allied nations – responded at the close of August 1916 with a rejection of the Allies’ arguments; unarmed submarines, from whatever nation, were to be regarded as merchant vessels and accordingly permitted to trade.


Reproduced below is Captain Koenig’s initial announcement upon arrival in the U.S. with the Deutschland on 9 July 1916.


“German Submarine Deutschland’s Atlantic Crossing by Captain Paul Koenig

The submarine Deutschland, which I have the honour to command, is the first of several submarines built to the order of the Deutsche Ozean Rhederei G.M.B.H., Bremen. She will be followed by the Bremen shortly.

The idea of the building of this submarine emanated from Alfred Lohmann, then President of the Bremen Chamber of Commerce. He brought his idea in the fall of last year confidentially before a small circle of friends, and the idea was taken up at once. A company was formed under the name of “Deutsche Ozean Rhederei G. M. B. H.,” and the Germaniawerft, Kiel, was entrusted with the building of the submarines.

The Board of Directors is composed of Alfred Lohmann, President of the Board; Philipp Heineken, General Manager of the Nord Lloyd, and Kommerzienrat P. M. Herrman, Manager of the Deutsche Bank. Carl Stapelfeldt, Manager of the Nord Lloyd, has taken over the management of the company.

We have brought a most valuable cargo of dyestuffs to our American friends, dyestuffs which have been so much needed for months in America and which the ruler of the seas has not allowed the great American Republic to import. While England will not allow anybody the same right on the ocean because she rules the waves, we have, by means of the submarine, commenced to break this rule.

Great Britain cannot hinder boats such as ours to go and come as we please. Our trip passing Dover across the ocean was an uneventful one. When danger approached we went below the surface, and here we are, safely in an American port, ready to return in due course.

I am not in a position to give you full details regarding our trip across the ocean, in view of our enemies. Our boat has a displacement of about 2,000 tons and a speed of more than fourteen knots. Needless to say that we are quite unarmed and only a peaceful merchantman.

Our boats will carry across the Atlantic the mails and save them from British interruption. We trust that the old friendly relationship with the United States, going back to the days of Washington, when it was Prussia who was the first to help America in its fight for freedom from British rule, will awake afresh in your beautiful and powerful country.

The house flag of the Deutsche Ozean Rhederei is the old Bremen flag-red and white stripes, with the coat of arms of the town, the key in the corner. This key is the sign that we have opened the gates which Great Britain tried to shut up on us and the trade of the world. The gates which we opened with this key will not be shut again. Open door to the trade of the world and freedom of the oceans and equal rights to all nations on the oceans will be guaranteed by Germany’s victory in this struggle for our existence.”

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

The experiment did not stand the test of time however. Within a short time, the United States would come to view submarines as the powerful weapon they truly are because of increases in the hostility between the two nations. All of the remaining subs built by the
new company would be taken over by the German Navy, armed and sent to be a part
of the fleet.

A third voyage as a merchant submarine, planned for January 1917, was aborted as German-US relations had worsened following the sinking of shipping bound for the United Kingdom, often just outside of US territorial waters. The Deutschland was taken over by the German Imperial Navy on 19 February 1917 and converted into the U-155, part of the U-Kreuzer Flotilla, being fitted with 6 bow torpedo tubes with 18 torpedoes, and two 150mm deck guns taken from the pre-dreadnought battleship SMS Zähringen. She made three successful war cruises, sinking 42 ships and damaging one.

At war’s end U-155 was surrendered, displayed in England, and eventually sold for scrap.

I remember as a boy seeing pictures in Popular Science of merchant nuclear powered submarines. I always thought that it could have never become a reality…


Mister Mac

111 Years of Continuous Improvement 2

Continuous Improvement for 111 Years

While submarines have existed in one form or another for a
very long time, the US Navy formalized the marriage of technologies that would
lead to the modern steel warhorses that range the oceans of the world today.
After a series of trials in the late 1800’s, a man named Holland would master the
challenges that allowed the navy to welcome its first submersible warship. This
simple submarine was the real starting point to technologies that are still in
use today. The DNA of the modern nuclear submarine fleet has adapted to each
new improvement and helped to influence the countries history in war and in

John P. Holland was a prolific inventor who held over twenty
five major patents by the end of his life. His most famous of course was the
submarine that charted the course for the United States to be a world power in
submarine technology. He was born in Ireland to an Irish speaking mother and
only learned to speak English when he went to the National Schools and later as
a member of the Irish Christian Brothers where he was a teacher. He left
Ireland in 1873 due to poor health and immigrated to the United States.  His teaching career continued but he was an
inventor at heart and passionate about designing a submersible ship. After a
series of unsuccessful tests, he finally came up with the right combination
which the US Navy bought on April 11, 1900. The ship was named the USS Holland
and six more were ordered and built in a company that later emerged as the
Electric Boat Company.


The patent for his Submergible Torpedo-Boat 472670 of April
1889 shows the vision of the man who created the modern day submarine. From the

“My invention relates to the class of torpedo or gun boats
commonly called “submerging” or “submarine” boats; and the object of the
invention is to provide a torpedo-boat that will combine with the maximum of
protection for both boat and crew the necessary accuracy in steering, the
greatest allowable speed, destructiveness and steadiness, whereby it is possible
to begin the attack at a distance of one to two thousand yards distance, and
whereby, also, the boat may be brought near enough to a man-of-war to apply a
submerged or submarine torpedo with the minimum risk of injury.”

As someone who spent a considerable amount of time on subs,
I can tell you that reading his original patent was like looking at a tech
manual from one of our modern boats. What separates his invention from today’s
boats is the spirit of continuous improvement that has taken us from a
submersible ship to a true submarine.

If Continuous Improvement is such a powerful tool, why is it
so hard for some organizations to adapt it? What prevents so many people from
taking a good idea and making it reach across the ages?

The sad answer is that in most cases its not technology, it’s
the people who should and could adapt it. Those same people who could influence
a reach toward greatness have mastered the art of “Can’t”

It’s too complex

We have never done that before

It’s not our job

We don’t have the resources

It will never work

We don’t have the expertise

It can’t be done

It’s too risky

It’s good enough

There’s not enough time

We already tried it once

Can you imagine how history would have changed if the early
pioneers (including Holland) had adapted these commonly held excuses? After
spending 57 of his 74 years working with submersibles, John Philip Holland died
in August 1914 in Newark, New Jersey. He never got to see the greatest impact
of his lifelong passion. He died on the eve of World War 1 where submarine
warfare came of age.

Thanks John.

Mister Mac

Liberty Call 2

The crew and I are making a liberty call this week to the location where my Dad’s old Boot Camp was once located near Geneva, NY on Lake Seneca.

I wrote a book about his service in World War 2. The book was based on a collection of his letters we found after he passed away.

I will be back at the helm in a few days with more leansubmarine log entries.

Mister Mac

Prepare to Hover Reply


Submarines are incredible machines that are designed to
operate in a number of configurations. One of the difficult ones is something
called “hovering”.   A submarine has ballast tanks that control its
buoyancy. To start descending, the submarine floods these tanks with outside
sea water and to surface, you make that water leave in a very impressive
fashion. Anyone who has ever seen” Hunt for Red October” has seen the affects
of a rapid rise to the surface (known as an emergency blow).

Hovering is a useful tactic for a number of reasons. It
allows the submarine to sit in one spot at a certain depth with no forward
motion. Modern boats have a number of devices which allow this to be achieved
but it still takes some effort to do so. The worst thing about hovering is that
it has the negative side effect of making it easier to be detected. Needless to
say, it would make sense not to hover very long.

The same can be said about your business. Are you hovering
right now?  At first thought, it would
seem like there is not much effort required for a business or organization to
hover in place. Just stop doing the things you need to grow and innovate. I
would suggest that in the early days of the Great Recession, many companies
decided to hover and wait things out. Incredibly though, just as much energy
was expended in getting to the place where they could stand still as if they
were to continue to move forward and be ready for the next economic spurt.

For anyone in a boardroom in the past few years, see if this
doesn’t sound familiar: training must be cut to the bone, only keep those
absolutely needed to maintain the red line as stable as possible, cancel or
delay all improvement activities. Even cutting things required a certain level
of energy to maintain. What will the cost be to reinitiate those programs? How
far behind are you in your innovation cycle as you sit dormant? What about your
credibility as an organization? Will your employees trust you to make the right
decisions knowing that you failed to see this time period as an opportunity to
move forward with process and product innovations?

Lean programs in many places took a giant hit as resources
dwindled. All of the nay-sayers who did not believe that lean was a good
program were cheering its demise form the sidelines. All of the things that
make lean work were criticized as wasteful in these tough economic times. When
the panic set it, it was easy to blame everything but the real reason why
business was going so badly. Yes, it might be a good idea to innovate, but look
at the cost. Yes, it would be good to have a more flexible and trained work
force, but see the expenses rise? Yes training is essential but is it really
worth the cost in these tough times?

The truth is companies that are poised for growth never let
up on their lean initiatives. They never accepted hovering as a solution. Lean
and especially continuous improvement are actually the right philosophies in
tough times. The cost to do a small kaizen can more often than not be balanced
with the gains. Maybe the gains will not emerge until the upturn in the
economy. But like potential energy, they are poised to break into kinesis,  spurred on by the forces of a revived
economic situation.

Innovation is the heart of survival in a business environment.
Just like the greatest inventions of their day are eclipsed by newer and more
fantastic innovations, so are business processes. We already know the value
lean and Six Sigma have in creating value in an organization. What will the
next giant leap forward be? Who will be poised to take advantage of the
recovery with the greatest impact.

Reality does dictate that businesses must protect their
ability to survive in tough times. Organizations that see beyond that and
carefully make investments in process improvement are the real winners in this
economy. They will learn to see waste in a brand new way as inventories are
forced to adjust to market climates. They can start to understand flow in their
processes in this artificially suppressed system and truly determine if they
have been operating a pull or push system  within their organization. They can become
even closer to their customers as the supply chain tightens. Do you really know
what your customer’s needs are? Do they? Truthfully, as the market has tightened,
they have become smarter about inventory. Have you had this discussion with
them recently? If not what are you waiting for?

Finally, you need to see your system end to end with a new
eye. Instead of treating your suppliers like rented mules that can be easily turned
back into new rented mules, you must accept that going forward, they are not
just part of an extended supply chain, they are your lifeline. Developing a
supply base that aligns to your lean environment will ensure that all of you
survive through even the toughest time.

People will still need products and services. At the
completion of this cycle, there will be fewer businesses but the demand
potential on a global basis could actually increase. The companies and
organizations that plan and prepare for that time will be in a better place to
align their outcomes to that new demand.

The question for you is will you be hovering or will you be
lean enough to ring up all ahead flank speed in your journey to success?

Mister Mac

Divisions Reply

Division is the title for people on a submarine who are
assigned to operate together. If you think about it, that seems like a rather
strange name for a “team” until you recognize that the divisions are all part
of a larger team.

A group of people who are assigned to function together will
only be as effective as the structure they are given or develop. Assigning
strangers to a group does not make them a “Team”. They are really just a
collection of people with differing goals, objectives, needs, motivations,
ambitions and on and on. People in many modern cultures are groomed to be
individualistic by their very nature. We are taught to compete for grades in
school, scores in sports, and position in life. Assuming this is all true, why
then are we even remotely surprised that putting people together in groups
causes conflict? More importantly, since it is fairly accepted that operating in
groups can cause conflict, why don’t we do more in the workplace to proactively
address it?

Every large lean implementation model includes some attempt
to get to a team environment. The reasons vary but most can be traced back to
the Toyota model where small teams operate in harmony to create the goods and services
intended for the customer. The team is capable of creating small changes for
continuous improvement, deck plate problem solving (in the Gemba), and
generally running in a way that allows for the maximum efficiency. Who wouldn’t
want a team like that? On the surface, these teams function at a higher level
than groups for a number of reasons. But one of the most important reasons is
because they have learned how to manage conflict and channel it into a creative

What does a team look like in this environment? First, in
most cases it’s small. One of my favorite reasons on the “Master List of Why
Teams Fail” is wrong structure.

So many times management will design a model with cost as the only driver and
not provide the team with the proper resources to succeed. I have seen teams of
twenty five or more with only one supervisor and the results in most cases are
chaotic with a large splash of non-value added activity. In a large group, you
will normally find problem solving non-existent and many smaller subsets of
people who have taken it upon themselves to create the smaller groups that help
them with their individual goals.

The normal model based loosely on Toyota is a group of
people between five to seven with similar skills and training. This team is
capable of rotating through the designed work so that monotony and ergonomic issues
can be addressed within the team. This team is typically led by a Team Leader
who is actually another worker selected and given some additional training. The
team then would report to a Group Leader who normally would have four to seven
groups. The numbers can vary according to organization size and need but the
key is to have groups that can develop as teams.

Submarine teams are called Divisions. It follows a long
standing U.S. Naval tradition to routinely group people of similar skills and responsibilities
together for better resource management. My Division was always called the Auxiliary
Division and we were given specialized training in a wide variety of mechanical
and electrical equipment operation, maintenance and repair. The purpose was to
provide the submarine with a small group that could maintain operation
efficiency while underway. Larger repairs would occur in port with repair
groups from other commands, but while you are hundreds of miles from the
nearest base, you can’t afford for critical equipment to be inoperable.

This small group of people has several levels of leadership.
Normally, one of them will be appointed as the Leading Petty Officer (LPO).
This person is a blue collar who is still capable of fully replacing each
member of the team during periods where a member might be missing (for instance
because of illness or vacation). The LPO helps to manage problem solving
activities on a day to day basis and provides a certain level of guidance to
keep the team on track.

The next level will be a more seasoned individual with
advanced leadership skills. In many cases, this person is a Chief Petty Officer
(often considered the backbone of the Navy). The Chief has many years of
experience and provides an expertise in knowledge, skills and leadership that
govern the management of the Division. The Chiefs are also part of a separate
team in the Chief’s Quarters who provide yet another layer of problem solving
in matters that cross team boundaries. On a submarine, this happens more often
than not, so having a group designed to address this issue is critical to submarine

Finally, the team has a Division officer. This person has a
high degree of education, a finely tuned set of skills that will help to manage
ship operations in one way or another. They provide a higher level of leadership
keeping in mind the overall ship’s goals as a balance to the goals of each
division. They of course report to a higher level but you probably get the

A small group needs a sharp focus on their goals in order to
be successful and they need the resources required to be successful. When they
have managed through the initial conflict, they provide the best platform for
continuous improvement. Structure is an important way to help manage that
conflict. But in the end, it still comes down to each individual choosing to
operate within the structure you have designed. That frankly is the Golden
Grail of team development. Whether you operate in a union or non-union
environment, it is still the individual that needs the right motivation to want
to be a part of a team.

Being a part of a team means that members will sometimes
compromise their individual needs and desires for the good of the team. The
balance of this compromise is that each team member still needs to be heard and
have their ideas honored by the team in decision making and problem solving.
The issue is that at any given time, one of the team members may have a
solution to a problem that makes a genuine great leap forward. But if the team
is operating in a team where individual input is not valued, there is a
possibility that it will take much longer to reach the goal than needed.

Operating in a submarine environment, all of the dynamics of
team development become intensely obvious. Since there is no place to escape to
lick your wounds, conflict has a sharpness higher than that which might be
experienced in a nine to five environment. I think that is why submarine teams
and crews become so much closer more quickly (or disintegrate into chaos which
is not a god thing on a ship designed to sink). At the heart of conflict
management is the hard task of learning to trust each other.  At the gut level, it understands that on any
given day, your team mates are not trying to gain some kind of advantage or
special position that will make you work harder. Trust means that everything
has to operate at face value every day.  Can you say that about your working
environment now?

The answer of course is that creating the right structure
will be a good start to start the journey of team development. But note to the
reader: Even the most well designed structure will fail if you do not
proactively address the dynamics of the people within the team. Just because
you have seven of the best workers in the organization does not mean they will
be the best team.

I would challenge you today to examine your team structure.
Was it evolutionary in design or designed by plan? Were leaders created or
appointed? Do your teams manage conflict for success or have conflict for
distraction? How do you manage inter-team conflict and dynamics?

In my short 39 years of experience, I can tell you that if you allow any of the above dynamics to
operate without deliberate attention and planning, you will not succeed in a lean environment.

Happy Fourth of July 2

I had considered taking the day off today but was reminded that somewhere in the world at this very minute, a submarine is on patrol or special operation adding to the effort to keep us free. Those silent sentinels are never completely at rest and stand ready to perform the missions at a moments notice.

Knowledge and skills certainly make this elite group stand alone in the halls of warfare. But more than that is their spirit. Like many young people, you can count on them to complain about the food, the isolation, the long hours, the endless field days, the separation from their families and on and on. But look at their eyes when the red white and blue is raised on the aft deck. See their shoulders lift back a bit when they are presented with their very first set of dolphins. And see the pride in their families eyes when they come home from the sea.

I am proud of many moments of my life, but proudest of all that I belong to a unique fraternity. The volunteers than have manned the submarines of the United States Navy for over 111 years.

God Bless America and God guide and keep all of the sentinels who help to keep her free.

Mister Mac