Monday, May 9, 2016

Reprise: Jackie Fisher – Transforming the Royal Navy

By Pascal Dennis

Just finished Dreadnought, Robert Massie's splendid account of the years leading up to World War 1.

My favourite character is Admiral John (Jackie) Fisher who transformed the Royal Navy – just in time.

Fisher was a Lean thinker, far ahead of his time. His obsession was improving the speed and accuracy of Royal Navy operations -- in advance of the German High Fleet's challenge.

He used Lean thinking with intuitive flair. Go see was a favourite technique, as was standardized work.

He famously took a chair and table into the yard where some operation was to be carried out and declared his intention to stay there until the operation was completed.

The dreadnought, Royal Sovereign, was built in two years rather than three. Changing a barbette gun on a ship was reduced from two days to two hours. His example obliged all shipyards,

both navy and private, to reduce waste, making savings in cost and allowing new designs to enter service more rapidly.

He once observed, "When you are told a thing is impossible, then is the time to fight like the devil."

He was also effective politically. Winston Churchill, First Sea Lord, was an important (on again/off again) ally.

Had Jackie Fisher been less diligent, would the Royal Navy have checkmated the German High Fleet (confining them to their Baltic ports)?

Transformation is a tough business. At best you partially succeed, and that makes all the difference.

Best regards,


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