It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, 10th Anniversary Edition
D. Michael Abrashoff
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The story of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and his command of USS Benfold has become legendary inside and outside the Navy. Now Abrashoff offers this fascinating tale of top-down change for anyone trying to navigate today's uncertain business seas. When Captain Abrashoff took over as commander of USS Benfold, a ship armed with every cutting-edge system available, it was like a business that had all the latest technology but only some of the productivity. Knowing that responsibility for improving performance rested with him, he realized he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship. Within months he created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and take responsibility for their actions. The slogan on board became "It's your ship," and Benfold was soon recognized far and wide as a model of naval efficiency. How did Abrashoff do it? Against the backdrop of today's United States Navy-Benfold was a key player in our Persian Gulf fleet-Abrashoff shares his secrets of successful management including:
- See the ship through the eyes of the crew: By soliciting a sailor's suggestions, Abrashoff drastically reduced tedious chores that provided little additional value.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: The more Abrashoff communicated the plan, the better the crew's performance. His crew would eventually call him "Megaphone Mike," since they heard from him so often.
- Create discipline by focusing on purpose: Discipline skyrocketed when Abrashoff's crew believed that what they were doing was important.
- Listen aggressively: After learning that many sailors wanted to use the GI Bill, Abrashoff brought a test official aboard the ship-and held the SATs forty miles off the Iraqi coast. From achieving amazing cost savings to winning the highest gunnery score in the Pacific Fleet, Captain Abrashoff's extraordinary campaign sent shock waves through the U.S. Navy. It can help you change the course of your ship, no matter where your business battles are fought.
in a 400,000-person organization. That I had strong feelings about the Navy’s personnel policies and hoped I could contribute to their being changed doesn’t mean that I harbored fantasies that I could change them all by myself. No, the best course was to make the most of what I was given—a chain of command that led upward toward the people actually empowered to enact my ideas once they accepted them. When I was given a task I did not agree with, I would sometimes ask my people if they thought
South America, so I was six weeks into my position before I met him. He called me in when he had to give me my first official fitness report. He rated me sixth out of the six, which didn’t surprise me, as I was the most junior of the six. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the only substantive thing he wrote was that I was qualified to keep my security clearance. It was a peculiar statement, but I was not upset, because I cared more about results than recognition and I had confidence that
perceptive than you give them credit for, and they always know the score—even when you don’t want them to. A lot of the sailors I worked with came from the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder. They grew up in dysfunctional families in blighted neighborhoods, where addiction and abuse were common. They went to lousy schools and had little, if any, of what I took for granted as a kid: stability, support, succor. Still, despite all this adversity and the fact that they had nothing handed to
being naive. It happened on Benfold; why not in any other organization? As we prepared to leave Melbourne, with the tugs alongside, I went down to the pier to make a final check on the mooring lines. I found a young woman crying uncontrollably. “What’s wrong?” I asked, though I had my suspicions. “I can’t believe how friendly your sailors are, and I just hate to see you leave. Especially Willie, who works in the radar room. Would you please give him a note from me?” When I got back on board,
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