Effective internal communication

The following blog is written by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, commander, Military Sealift Command. Communication in any organization is critical to mission success. Shannon talks about the ideal communications environment for MSC and what he expects from all MSC mariners, civilians and Sailors.

USNS Spearhead departs Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Aug. 5.

USNS Spearhead departs Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Aug. 5.

Clear, concise communication among ALL involved in making a decision is critical in any organization, especially MSC. Commanders make decisions based on the information they have at the time. Challenges are surmounted when commanders have all the data they need from the subject matter experts, whose knowledge and expertise can make a difference in choosing the right course. We may each have our lane, but we’re all in the same pool. I’ve stated before that feedback is the breakfast of champions. Let me add that cross-feed is their lunch.

And we have a great example of why we need proactive communications: Joint High Speed Vessel. As many of you know, JHSV will eventually be a mix of government-owned/government-operated and government-owned/contractor-operated ships under the operational control of MSC Atlantic with maintenance and upkeep under the cognizance of the hard working folks in our Government-Operated Ships division and our Sealift Program. At the same time, our class manager is from our Contractor-Operated Ships division. I don’t think it takes a lot of insight to see that without proactive communication across business lines, keeping our ships ready will be a significant challenge.

I want our MSC communication model to be open, efficient and clear. When an issue arises, the responsible person should begin sharing information up-channel immediately. Bad news does not get better with age.

As reports are made and challenges encountered, everyone needs to think about who else needs to know about the issue, and communicate with them! The more information the ultimate decision-maker has, the better the decision will be.

Feedback is part of that communication process. It doesn’t matter what level you are: ship’s master or able seaman. If you see or know something about the issue, you have to communicate that to the other people involved. That includes both the good news and the bad news.

From the top, leaders must never dismiss information just because it came from a lower level. That’s the only way those on the deck plates will be confident in voicing their valuable information and opinions.

Whether an issue involves ships, people, money, cargo, training or anything else, clear communication, not only up and down channel but across codes and programs, is crucial. Stovepipes are for stoves, not passing information.

We operate in a high-pressure environment. Two-way communication isn’t enough anymore. These days, it has to be three-way or more, getting the right people together to deal with any issue as quickly and knowledgeably as possible.

You can help.

When something happens, get the facts, gather background data and communicate it to the people who need to know, remembering that other codes, departments and programs may be involved.

Together, we can get the job done, complete the mission and solve the problem – if we communicate effectively!

Thanks for your service,

 T.K. Shannon

Rear Admiral, United States Navy

Commander, Military Sealift Command

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