A Tight Ship (definition): A well-managed and disciplined organization. This expression, dating from the second half of the twentieth century, alludes to a vessel whose ropes are taut and seams well caulked, indicating that it is well managed.

The SIX FUNCTIONS OF TEAMWORK embody the notion of A TIGHT SHIP: (Five of these functions are found in Patrick Lencioni’s book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – a must read for entrepreneurs)

First, a small business can be highly functional, valuable and competitive if every crew member continually works to strengthen their core. This means all worries and personal problems must be left at shore. A competent crew member is physically and emotionally ready for the journey — well-rested, nourished, energized, focused, ready to step up and able to manage the stressors along the way. A strong core within each crew member fosters a “tight ship” mentality. The other five functions of a team provide for smooth sailing.

All hands on board trust one another and depend on each other for the success of the journey. Without trust the mission will be stalled by shaky stops and starts, disloyalties, lost time, mutinies and burnout that impede progress towards the goal of the expedition. The Captains (the executive team), with their over-arching duties and responsibilities, must be a cohesive unit and ONE with the journey. They trust their Chief Mates (managers) and crew to secure and steady the ship in the following ways:

Healthy conflict is welcomed as one shipmate may notice a problem or disagree with a directive. Crew members are encouraged to speak up for the sake and safety of the mission. It’s up to the Chief Mates and the Captains to listen to these concerns and coach up a crew member to avoid escalation of the conflict. The Chief Mates need to have the authority to recommend that a crew member gets sent back to shore if the conflict is unresolved.

The crew is committed and dedicated to staying afloat and making the trip successful. Friendships are important, but keeping the ship stable and moving towards its target is the crew’s priority. To be anything less could jeopardize the mission. However, crew members who share this priority can be a very powerful asset when extra effort, sacrifice and going above and beyond the call of duty is required. Friends who support each other for the success of the mission make friendships stronger.

Each shipmate, for the journey to endure and be successful, must be accountable for their actions. This includes following the chain of command, meeting or exceeding expected job performance, conserving resources by carefully watching costs, managing distractions and eliminating sources of strife like skipping on their shift or skimping on their duties.

Tight ship teamwork depends on the managers’ ability to optimize results and secure a competitive edge. A tight ship is strong, agile and reliable, able to take on new missions or to rapidly change course as needed in today’s business world. New trends and policies may require a shift in direction to avoid stormy seas or to weather the competition. It is the responsibility of the Captains to remain focused and vigilant in their roles, and rest assured knowing that the Chief Mates will keep the ship tight.

Does your small business run like a tight ship? If not, I can help. Contact me at [email protected]

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