In this episode, we learn about Marty’s role in the U.S. Navy and how his time there inspired him to improve the corporate world and help companies take their productivity to the next level. Marty also explains what it means to “command by negation” and how that concept can transform how companies and leaders see and develop their team members.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you may be today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best: Global Leadership. I’m so excited for the guests that we have on today. I’ve been looking forward to this interview for weeks. With more than two decades as a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy, he is a recognized thought leader in the SAP partner base and is known for his extensive insight in production planning, lean manufacturing, and ERP systems. Welcome, Marty Groover.
Marty Groover: Thanks for having me on, Steve. Appreciate it.
Steve Shallenberger: First of all, you’ve got that cool name: Groover. How do you really pronounce it, Marty?
Marty Groover: Just like it sounds: Groover.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s what I thought. Before we get started today, I would like to tell you a little more about Marty. He is a partner in the Industry 4.0 practice of C5MI, a firm that optimizes operational execution through the creation of live supply chains. Marty leads functional and technical teams to solve manufacturing challenges by merging people, process, and technology. Marty and I were talking before we started and I was describing all of the different types of listeners that we have. So this could be fun for all of them, regardless of where they’re at. To get us going, Marty, tell us about your background, and especially any points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you, what you’re doing today, and what your story is.
Marty Groover: My background is I joined the Navy as E-1. I went to college for a little bit after high school. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and then I talked to somebody—I lived in Tampa—and they said, “Hey, you should go in and get Advanced Electronics,” because the Space Coast was going on over there and Cape Canaveral, and I said, “Okay, that sounds good.” So, I got advanced electronics training and I became a fire control, meaning I worked on weapons systems, which was pretty neat. And I worked on the first really self-contained, fully condition-based monitoring system that would automatically measure itself and it wouldn’t call the captain and it won’t shoot because if it wasn’t perfect, you had to fix it. It was the first true stop to fix systems out there because it was a last-ditch defense and it had to work every time. The last thing in there you want. You don’t want a missile getting in on you. So, really interesting training. I was enlisted for about eight years and someone talked to me about going off, they saw leadership talent that I had and potential, so I put in for an officer commissioning program and I was lucky enough to get selected after about eight years. And my first ship as an officer was Aegis Weapon System, which was the really first fully-integrated weapon system out there in air warfare. And a little bit about that background is Vietnam War, the speed of air warfare got so fast that they used to use humans up in the directors, with the fire control radars to latch on to the missiles and then track them, but it got so fast that we started taking missiles and they said, “We gotta do something different.” And they really built a weapon system without a ship. So if you’ve ever been to Morristown, New Jersey, there’s a building out there that looks like a ship and you’re like, “What is that?” And that was where they built the first Aegis Weapon System that was fully integrated and fully automated, and took the human out of the loop where they didn’t need to be in the loop. And it really measured things automatically, made decisions automatically, Algorithms. They call it machine learning today, AI, but that system really was the first system that automatically does maintenance, measure itself, even switch over to different power supplies without a person doing anything in it. So, I got to do that cool job.
Marty Groover: As a systems test officer, my job was to make all 200-and-something pieces of the software work together. So you can imagine what that was like being the Chief Engineer of the Aegis Weapon System and making everything work and training everybody how to use it but also how to maintain it. So, fast forward, that was really neat. And then one of my jobs was in charge of the strike group. I was on an admiral staff in the John F. Kennedy strike group during my last cruise, and my job was C5I officer so you kind of see a theme here. My job was command and control, computers, communication, collaboration, and intelligence. I had to make everybody in a strike group communicate, link and all their stuff work together. And it was really an amazing experience. And it spawned a lot of understanding of how systems work, platforms. And it all integrates with data. And I retired from the Navy. I used SAP in the Navy and the last job that I had doing fleet maintenance on ships, and I started really seeing the power of a live ERP system. And I was able to do automated reports for budgets for all the ships, for availabilities, and things like that that I had. Then I got out and went to Caterpillar and was a Manufacturing Engineer who went from SAP system back to an old AS400 homegrown ERP system, and wow what a difference it was. I didn’t realize how good that SAP system was. So I went back in time, so to speak.
Marty Groover: And I call myself Marty McFly in the book because I really did see the future. I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna go work for Caterpillar, Fortune 100.” They’re a great manufacturer, don’t get me wrong. But I was really surprised that the stuff that I learned in the military was really advanced, ahead of it. And I was a Manufacturing Engineer, had to make all these people, processes, and technology work together to manufacture products, and I was a factory manager and deployed SAP again. And this is where I really started leveraging live data and using my experience. And this is what I kind of parallel in the book, how I used my experience from the military and just apply those principles in manufacturing and working in the commercial world but getting that live data—like I had on my Aegis Weapon System—from my ERP system for quality, or maintenance for all these things I needed to see to run my business better. So it really made a big difference in my thought process. I was a factory manager, and then they put me in charge of SAP deployment. So, if you complain about something enough, they’ll put you in charge of it. So, globally, I was responsible at Caterpillar for all the SAP and other ERP deployments. And they wanted the operations personnel because really it is an operations tool, and I really thought differently, and how to help people do that change management and understand the power of live data. And that’s what really spawned the book for me, I just had it in the back of my head, “I gotta write this book. I gotta write this book.” Fast forward, we did a bunch of Industry 4.0 projects at Caterpillar and four executives from Caterpillar decided to start this company, C5MI, in 2017. So I’ve been out applying these principles with our customers for the last five years, really trying to get ahead helping our manufacturing and supply chain industrial base, improve their business outcomes utilizing this technology.
Steve Shallenberger: So you saw a real connect, Marty, between the US Navy’s strategies of operations and the need for as close to perfection as you can get the business strategies. There’s a real connect because in today’s world, we’re far more competitive than we’ve ever been and we’re going to have to be more with the changes in the world that have happened the last two or three years.
Marty Groover: Absolutely. COVID has shown us that our supply chains are fragile and I’m not sure if we can afford to have these long supply chains anymore if we’re going to improve our security. I’ve never remembered not seeing things on a store shelf. I mean, that was shocking. And you still see it. You go to Walmart and things aren’t there, and it just really makes you think that we’ve got to bring manufacturing back closer to the continent of consumption to shore up the supply chains and we’re going to have to think differently about it. But that’s where the technology now is so advanced that we can automate a lot of things, make people more productive, not get rid of people. A lot of people are worried about Industry 4.0 is replacing people. That’s not what it’s about. We need exponential improvements in productivity to overcome this inflation that we’re feeling right now.
Steve Shallenberger: Now, before we go any further in with our listeners, I know that you’ll really agree with me in this state, and we’re so grateful for your service to our country.
Marty Groover: It’s my pleasure. I loved every minute of it. I was at the Army-Navy football game this week, and what a great place to be. One team, unfortunately the Navy, last minute coughed it up, but it was an exciting game and it’s just great to be around all the patriots.
Steve Shallenberger: I’ll say that’s so inspiring, what a dedication, and we’re grateful for the freedom that we have, but it comes because there are dedicated people willing to give their lives for freedom in our country. And we love the Navy coach, by the way.
Marty Groover: Yeah, I was a little disappointed when they let him go, but he had a good run. He was a good coach. It happens. We all expire at some point. Our skill sets expire after a while.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, he’s amazing, he’s pretty adaptable. I’m sure he’ll do fine. He did have a good run. So, Marty, what does it mean to harness the power of technology to drive untouchable results?
Marty Groover: With cloud computing, Internet of Things, and the connectivity that we have today and the computing power, you can really consume large pieces of data and drive better business outcomes, get predictable and then get autonomous. Where you really want to go is “How do I look at things that are mundane?” And this is what we did with Aegis Weapon System. I don’t need that radar operator to do all these things, I need them to work by exception. And that’s what we really need to do in our supply chain to manufacturing; how do we measure quality automatically and change things without a human having to do it so that we get better business outcomes? And really, when you look at where we’re going with the environment, how do we do these things with less to reduce our carbon footprint and make us much more efficient? If you look at multifactor productivity from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2010 or 2011, we’ve actually been not productive; our productivity has gone way down compared to for 30 years, starting with a PCs, every year. We got out of the late ‘70s inflation, some of it was regulatory changes, but a lot of it was because the PCs came in and made us that much more productive — they call it the silicon age. That’s where we are now. We got so much data and so much stuff that people can’t manage it all. We need to automate it and take the person out of the loop where we don’t need them, and really drive end-to-end visibility and autonomy in our supply chains.
Steve Shallenberger: Marty, I’m just curious, sometimes small or medium-sized businesses feel that this is out of reach for them. What’s your perspective on that? How can they leverage this in their organizations and teams?
Marty Groover: I would say this: When we go on and talk to customers, we don’t go to technology, that’s why I put technology last. You read the book, I’ll say, “There are no silver bullets.” If you understand the capabilities, you need to get better business outcomes, there are all sorts of different tools out there that you can use. It’s really about what capability, if I had it, would make a big difference in my business, and then where do I go to get it? And there are all sorts of different levels of technology. Even if you just use, there are some tools out there with Microsoft Power BI, Google has tools, there are things out there that are really reasonable that you can use. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to have an engine and you’ve got to have something on top of that engine measuring it. And your transactional system is very important to your financial results.
Steve Shallenberger: So what does it mean to command by negation?
Marty Groover: I’m glad you asked that, that’s my favorite thing. This is one of the powerful tools that I saw while we were in the military. When you codify a process properly and you train people, command by negation means you don’t need to ask me, you don’t need to wonder what to do. When this situation happens, you already have pre-planned responses and you know what you’re supposed to do — execute. And with today’s tools, what we’ve found is the farther down I can push my business decisions to the shop floor, it doesn’t matter whether it’s manufacturing, I don’t care what the business is. But where does an undercover boss always go? He goes down the lower level, or she does, to see what’s going on down there. They usually know. I call it the iceberg of ignorance. And if we can overcome that with the right tools to say, “Here’s a situation. This is what I expect you to do.” Command by negation can really change your business outcomes.
Steve Shallenberger: Can you give an example of that, Marty? Pick any business that you want to associate with a number of different industries. HVAC industry is one of the ones that we’re associated with. Can you provide maybe an example of that?
Marty Groover: I’ll just take what I did in my factory. There are a lot of times things happen, and everybody stood around, “So, what should I do? What would the boss want me to do? I can’t do anything more. I’ll stop.” So we started making pre-planned responses if we had a quality event happen, if this event happen. Just pick any event you want, we already looked for those failure modes, figured out how to resolve them, empowered people—and it’s really about empowerment—make the decision, you know what you’re seeing, and take action to solve the problem. Don’t wait for someone to come tell you what to do. And really, people love that when they’re empowered and they have clarity of what you expect from them in a job, that’s all people want. “Oh, that’s what you want me to do. This is the right answer.” So, what we would do with some of these tools, we would give them the data that they needed. For instance, I’m just making an example: You need to move this many parts an hour to keep the material flowing. We’re going to give you a measurement so you know where you’re at. If you get behind or something happens, you already know the pre-planning response, you execute it, and you don’t lose productivity, and you understand what the expectation is. So, that’s how our military is so strong. And when you look at what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine, you can see the differences in the Russian military compared to ours. For instance, if on the field, something happens to your leader, people don’t just sit there and stop the fight, the next person knows, “Well, I’m supposed to do this, let’s go,” and they go. So, that’s the way the Navy is trained. These things happen as pre-planned response, you just execute, you don’t even ask to do it. And that command by negation makes you that much more powerful because of that because everybody has the power to understand it.
Steve Shallenberger: Before we started today our interview, Marty and I were talking about the demographics of our listeners. We have CEOs, C suites, we have division leaders, we have team leaders, we have coaches, and for example, we have stay-at-home parents. I can see this being a powerful concept for all of these people, teachers, professors, superintendents of schools, helping people see, “Well, if this happens, here’s what we do.” It’s not a surprise. And I can see it raising productivity.
Marty Groover: And engagement. Because when people feel like they’re part of the business, they get decision rights, and they’re empowered, you get better outcomes pretty soon. It’s just a flywheel of innovation and people making recommendations because there are a lot of great ideas on the floor. And if people know that they can have an input and they could change things, that’s another part of my book, I talk about that untapped value that people have, and if you just leverage it, wow, what you can do with your business. Because I don’t know how to fix everything. I’ll be humble enough to say, as a leader, I can come help you. But I’d rather hear what you need to solve the problem. And if you train them well enough, and that’s another part of the book. It’s really about everybody’s a trainer, make sure everybody’s trained to understand what they’re supposed to do. It’s just really impressive when it all comes together.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you for taking a few moments on that, that’s a great concept. How can leaders build their pipeline? And describe what that means.
Marty Groover: That’s another thing. So, our job market right now, it is a pretty tight job market and we know that the younger generations pop around to jobs. I can look at my daughter and my son-in-law, the jobs move a lot. So you’ve got to build in for that. But in the military, we already had that because every two to three years, people were constantly moving. So what we had was a thing called watch team replacement. So you don’t wait until somebody leaves to train somebody else. As soon as that person’s proficient, they’re the next trainer, you bring the next people in and you start putting them in those roles and let them learn. For instance, when I was a department head, I went up and presented to leadership as I needed, but a lot of times I took the people that work for me and let them present. If I do it 50 times, how many times do I need to do it? You’re always trying to train that next group so that if something happens, command by negation, you’ve already been trained, you’ve got the experience, and you just fill right in and you go.
Steve Shallenberger: I love that concept. That’s so powerful and so needed.
Marty Groover: And we had a board, this was before computers, but everybody was qualified and then you see all the other people that were qualified in those positions and you always made sure you had at least one person that was backup and they always got their time in the seat. That’s very critical.
Steve Shallenberger: What methods have you found, Marty, that people could utilize to help increase skill sets? Because we’re talking about the pipeline of people, so how do you do that? You talked about training. What are you thinking about when we increase skill sets?
Marty Groover: Here’s what I see a lot, and it’s happened in the ‘90s and the early 2000s, everybody went to computer-based training. And the military has some computer-based training, but there’s a lot of on-the-job training. And I think one of my examples in there was we created job qualifications requirements and somebody that was trained to do a job, took another person under their wing, train them, and then watch them do it, and make sure they understood why they were doing it, how to do it, and what system they need to do it with. And I’ll tell you, if you think only computer-based training is what you need to run your business, on-the-job training is so important and having the material there to explain to people what to do with standard worksheets and process maps. It’s amazing what you can do with a process map and standard work where somebody goes, “Oh, here’s my standard work step, here’s my system that I do it in, here’s how I do it. Now I know why I do it, not just do it, but I also can then learn how to train other people because I have the right material.” Instead of the old ‘my little notebook,’ the coconut telegraph, as I call it, of training is not the best way to train.
Steve Shallenberger: Training is a huge deal. How do we transform our organizations to have a learning culture? In other words, it’s ongoing, it’s something we’re always doing. You talked about in the Navy how people are always changing, you have new teams coming in. It is a learning culture, it’s something you’re always doing. How are you able to create that culture within organizations?
Marty Groover: I think that, one, you are very dedicated to training, you have it on your weekly schedules, you take the time. A lot of people are like, “I don’t have time to do train.” I don’t have time to explain this to people but if you don’t take that time, the time that you do need that person to be able to execute, they’re not going to be prepared for it. So, there are moments all along the day where you can train people. Stop, talk to them, “Hey, do you want to learn something new?” And as leaders, if you set that tone, that you’re going to train people, you’re going to help people learn, it’s just amazing how infectious it is; it will roll down. In my mind, I always want to work myself out of a job, I want people to work two levels up, not two levels down. And when you’re not training people, then your leaders are bogged down working two levels down because they’re solving problems in the weeds and they’re working in the business instead of on the business because you didn’t train them. And that’s the most critical piece when you find gaps, solve those training gaps, and get people back up working another level up instead of two levels down.
Steve Shallenberger: This training culture is so powerful. Whether it’s a family or a team in school, the military, but definitely in business organizations, it’s a critical factor of success. And the very best organizations, I’ve observed, have a vibrant learning culture.
Marty Groover: Yeah, I used to have some crusty old manufacturing engineers, they would complain about some of the new young engineers, I said, “You know what? If you really want to get this out of them, why don’t you take them under your wing and teach them how to do it instead of just expecting them know how to do it. You’ve got 20 years of experience, show them what you’ve got. You might be surprised what you get out of them.” We started doing that with my team, and it was amazing because now everybody was helping each other instead of one line. I had 14 assembly lines of paint booths building track-type tractors, and that’s a lot of manufacturing engineers and there were some older guys. Once you break down those barriers and say, “Take them under your wing, teach them. Let’s go out and learn together. We’ll do a lunch and learn.” We used to do potluck lunches sometimes and somebody would do some training. It was amazing how if you build that culture, it really does work.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s so refreshing. We’ve had a great interview today. I’ve loved you being with us. Our listeners, I’m sure really got some fun ideas. Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today?
Marty Groover: The keys to that book are, I learned a lot of stuff in the military but I gave examples in the book that you can use and they really do work. Every one of those stories is an example of how I took what I learned in the Navy and converted it over to the commercial world and found use of it. So I hope if you read the book, give me a shout on Amazon — never hurts, if you’re an author, having those reviews. But honestly, if there’s anything I can ever do to help anybody I’ve got www.c5mi.com. I also have my own website that’s in my book. I get people to call me all the time, “Explain this to me. Explain that to me.” I love helping people, I really do.
Steve Shallenberger: I love that attitude, Marty. Tell us about your website. Describe that one more time how people can go to it.
Marty Groover: Our website, www.c5mi.com has all of our Industry 4.0 solutions all the way from core ERP systems all the way up to full Industry 4.0. People are on different spectrums out there with their businesses, so we always look at the maturity model, where you’re at, and then help people on the journey because it is really challenging to converge people, process, and technology together — you’ve got to have a strategy. And that’s what the books about, too. It’s not, “Hey, take my numbers.” This isn’t what it’s going to do. It’s about what is your strategy and how are you going to converge those people with a process that’s codified digitally and get better business outcomes?
Steve Shallenberger: Well, Marty, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.
Marty Groover: I’m glad we could make it work. Thanks a lot for having me and thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I appreciate it.
Steve Shallenberger: It’s awesome. I’m excited to read the book. Is it on audio?
Marty Groover: It’s funny that you asked. I just finished the final edits on the audio. So it should be coming out in audio very shortly here.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, I love listening to both. I like to get both the book and listen to the Audible, and that way you can case out the book, listen to it, and then go back and make notes in the book for a longer-term impact. Well, listen, we wish you all the best in what you’re doing. You’re lifting people, lifting the capacity of individuals and organizations. Great work.
Marty Groover: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Steve Shallenberger: And to all of our listeners, we’re so grateful that you’ve been able to be with us today. The very fact that you’re here shows your interest and what you’re about and trying to improve yourself and becoming your best. And this is at the very heart of energizing organizations. And Marty talks about bringing out the best in people, well, it’s that attitude that does it. So, we wish you the best today and always. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, wishing you a great day.
CEO, Executive, Corporate Trainer, and Community Leader.
CTO, Author, Thought Leader, Production Specalist, U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer