Change Management Processes are Critical — From Nuclear Submarines to Your Network

How often have you made a network change that didn’t work the way you expected or even created a new issue? The list of configuration changes needed to build, maintain, and secure a network is daunting.  It’s all too easy to act without thoroughly thinking through and considering the impact on the whole network.  Initially it may appear as though quick action to make a small change would save time, but that can be a trap that leads to costly mistakes. Oftentimes changes have complex implications. The wrong change can result in in downtime and millions of dollars in lost productivity or revenue. No one wants to be that person.

Change management is the organizational process to ensure that we stop and consider the impact of change before acting. It’s used in many industries, including IT. Submarine commanders need change management in an environment just as complex as information technology but with more serious, life or death repercussions. In his book, Turn the Ship Around!¸ former submarine commander David Marquet describes “Deliberate Action,”  the process he used to create competency, reduce errors and improve resiliency. It required sailors to stop and think before making a change. Stopping, thinking, and then acting provides an opportunity to review and thoroughly think through the impact of an action.

Marquet got great results:

“Later, when Santa Fe earned the highest grade on our reactor operations inspection that anyone had seen, the senior inspector told me this: ‘Your guys made the same mistakes—no, your guys tried to make the same number of mistakes—as everyone else. But the mistakes never happened because of deliberate action. Either they were corrected by the operator himself or by a teammate.’

He was describing a resilient organization, one where error propagation is stopped.”

A nuclear submarine has highly engineered systems that are tightly coupled, all of which need to work for the whole system to operate properly. Errors can damage valuable and sensitive nuclear reactor equipment or even result in complete system failure and death of an entire crew.

Like a nuclear submarine, IT networks are highly engineered and tightly coupled and need resiliency to avoid catastrophe. Every interconnected system relies on others, as in nuclear submarines. And having a change management process to ensure that everyone stops and sufficiently thinks before acting is just as important. We need to avoid the temptation to bypass the change management process and execute a change quickly, thinking we’re “saving time.” Catastrophe can be lurking around the corner, and none of us wants to be responsible for a Code Red.

The RedSeal platform gives you the ability to quickly think through the impact of change prior to acting. It tells you what you have, how it’s connected, and where your risks are. RedSeal discovers the devices on your network and creates a digital network model of how everything is connected. The model can provide deep insights into the implications and impact of change. On the submarine, the requirement to stop and think not only gives sailors time to process using their own experience and knowledge, but also allows teammates with additional experience and knowledge to think and intervene before mistakes are made. RedSeal is a reliable teammate you can have by your side as you execute change management.  It knows how everything is interconnected and can better show you the impact of a proposed change.

 With RedSeal, you can engineer “Deliberate Action” into your change management. It may seem that stopping and thinking may take time and be expensive, especially during an incident, but errors can be significantly more damaging. RedSeal allows you to stop for shorter periods of time and avoid errors. By automating analysis steps and reducing complexity RedSeal helps you make your network more secure and resilient.


Marquet, David L., Turn the Ship Around! Penguin RH 2012. Pg 124