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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2021

Why Mindset Matters

By Jennifer Braden, PHNSY & IMF Command University Director

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – In 2018, USS Missouri (SSN 780) docked at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) and began an extended maintenance and modernization availability. While initially it seemed that it would be business as usual, the crew brought a unique tool that would contribute to an early delivery and a savings of $28.5 million. This tool is not necessarily tangible. It is a concept that invites a shift in mindset. 

   The Arbinger Institute’s Outward Mindset work reveals that people operate from one of two distinct mindsets: an inward, self-focused mindset or an outward, others-inclusive mindset. From an inward mindset, people focus only on their own personal goals and objectives without considering their impact on others.  However, when we have an outward mindset, we see others as equals with their needs, challenges and objectives mattering as much as our own. The Outward Mindset approach focuses on collective results compared to an inward mindset that only focuses on individual results; ours versus mine. 

   In the September/October 2020 supplement of Military Medicine, Missouri Commanding Officer Cmdr. George Howell said the opportunity to initiate a mindset shift began as the crew prepared to change Missouri’s homeport to Pearl Harbor, which also included a transition into an extended maintenance period.  Cmdr. Howell reported that in early 2018, there were multiple indicators of declining crew morale, accountability and performance.  During the first nine months of 2018, his crew experienced 12 Captain’s Mast proceedings (disciplinary actions), encountered 31 near-miss events requiring command-level attention, and formally declared 17 test program problems due to watch standing errors. By implementing the Outward Mindset program and shifting the crew’s mindset, personal accountability and performance improved dramatically. From October 2018 to June 2019, only one Captain’s Mast proceeding was conducted. During the same period, reported liberty incidents decreased by 70%, only six test program problems due to watch standing errors occurred, and near-miss events requiring command-level critique decreased by 80%. 

   After Missouri docked at PHNSY & IMF, the crew invited the project team to shift their mindset, putting the project on the fast track to success as the crew and shipyard worked collaboratively to meet and beat the strict maintenance timeline by delivering five days early and saving millions of dollars.

   As a result of the Missouri project’s success, PHNSY & IMF leadership began implementing Outward Mindset throughout the shipyard. The very basis of this concept is that our mindset drives our behavior. We may understand learning organization disciplines and our core values, but if we are engaging them from an inward mindset, our behaviors are self-serving and do not lend to the collective efforts or shared objectives of the shipyard. In fact, from an inward mindset, we can easily justify undermining these efforts altogether.

   It may sound simple and maybe even obvious, but changing our behavior is one of the hardest things to do. Scientists cite multiple reasons people are resistant to change, often pointing to our core beliefs and values as significant contributing factors.

   How do we overcome this challenge to changing our behaviors? According to the Arbinger Institute, shifting to an outward mindset lays a solid foundation for desired behavioral change. 

   The Outward Mindset training invites the opportunity for self-awareness and accountability. However, it is unrealistic to think of it as a magic pill that will solve all of our issues and challenges at the shipyard.  It will take time and intentional effort from each of us to implement the tools we learn during Outward Mindset training.

   As we embark on this journey to shift our mindset, we will encounter opportunities to engage from either an inward or an outward mindset. We can choose to shift valuable time and resources to the collaborative success of our shipyard.  


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