Leadership: June 19, 2002

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The U.S. Navy, concerned about it's falling morale and 30 percent turnover rate, is looking to techniques used by major American corporations to solve similar problems. Two major moves that have worked are to survey sailors to find out what aspects of their work bother them the most. This has led to changes in the way sailors are assigned and enhancements like email access for sailors at sea (a major morale booster.) Although individual sailors were the first to introduce personal computers to the fleet in the 1980s (often bringing their own PCs aboard to automate some of their shipboard work), the navy as a whole was slow to get with the PC revolution. The navy is also trying to improve living conditions at sea, which is one of the reasons for new ships having more automation, smaller crews and more living space for each sailor (and maybe fewer inspections.) Another major change has been to eliminate the differences in how the Pacific and Atlantic fleets operate. Since World War II, the Pacific and Atlantic fleets operated as if they were two separate navies. During World War II sailors joined either fleet and often stayed there for their entire careers. And after World War II, the differences were maintained out of pride, habit and the idea that it contributed to "esprit de corps" (group morale.) But as the decades went on, it was more common for sailors to be transferred many times between the two fleets and the differences were seen as an unnecessary annoyance. Most sailors welcome the effort to finally eliminate the differences.

 


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