At the end of your workday, you will likely face a decision: “Do I go home? Do I go to the gym? Do I go to the pub?” That is blue work. You are making a decision.
You get in your car and as you drive there, you won’t stop at every intersection and revisit that decision. “Oh, am I going home or going to the pub?”
Blue work is the decision making work. It’s cognitive. It embraces variability. Red work is cognitively easy. Our brain can relax and we enter “auto-mode”. We reduce variability.
As an example, on the submarine, we would view tasks as a series of red work. During the course of regular tasks we might be scheduled to enter port at ten o’clock. Before entering port, we would have a briefing. Essentially, we were just reviewing everyone’s tasks. We didn’t view this as a decision process. We changed that. We canceled all the briefs and replaced it with what we called a “certification”. We said, “Look, let’s make a decision. Are we ready to come to port?” We turned this bit of red work into blue work. Instead of having a long series of red work, we injected blue work throughout the day, and that blue work is what activated people’s leadership.
For us, it was entering port, for you it might be starting a procedure in the operating room, pushing an airplane back from the gate and getting ready for a flight or firing up an important piece of equipment. The central idea is, inject “Blue Work”. Make a decision. Activate the cognitive part of the brain, and turn people into leaders.
I’m David Marquet and this is your leadership nudge.
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