Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques From The Best Damn Ship In The Navy By Michael Abrashoff

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques From The Best Damn Ship In The Navy By Michael Abrashoff

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Product Description

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.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #3013 in Books
  • Published on: 2002-05
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 10.25" h x 1.25" w x 6.50" l, .91 pounds
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 212 pages
Editorial Reviews Review
Other than the sobering fact that real lives are regularly at stake, running a navy ship is a lot like running a business: leaders of both must get the most out of their crews to operate at peak efficiency and complete the tasks at hand. As commander of the highly acclaimed USS Benfold, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff irrefutably demonstrated how progressive management can succeed at sea; in It's Your Ship, he translates his methods into an approach that can also be applied by land-bound captains of commerce and industry. Describing "the ideas and techniques that I used to win my sailors' trust and, eventually, their enthusiastic commitment to our joint goal of making our ship the best in the fleet," Abrashoff cites embarrassing failures along with subsequent triumphs to illuminate the keys to his accomplished 20-month tenure aboard the guided missile destroyer. His suggestions: lead by example; listen aggressively; communicate purpose and meaning; create a climate of trust; look for results, not salutes; take calculated risks; go beyond standard procedure; build up your people; generate unity; and improve your people's quality of life. While hardly original on the surface, Abrashoff's course should provide practical direction and inspiration for any leader hoping for similarly positive results in similarly rigid organizations. --Howard Rothman

About the Author
CAPTAIN D. MICHAEL ABRASHOFF is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, and was a military assistant to the former secretary of defense, the Honorable Dr. William J. Perry. Abrashoff left the Navy in 2001 and became the founder and CEO of Grassroots Leadership, Inc., in Boston. You can visit his website at

From AudioFile
Part leadership lesson and part memoir, this compact audio is a testament to the author's understanding of leadership in any large organization. His message is about helping people engage with their mission, which in his case was operating the 8,600-ton guided missile destroyer he commanded in the late 1990s. He advocates respecting people at every level, providing personalized training, and having an orderly system for rewarding high performers with more responsibility. Abrashoff is definitely in command and proud of his story but not lacking in humility and human perspective. Leaders of fast food restaurants and warships alike will be uplifted by his relentless efforts to care for the 310 men and women under his command. T.W. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

53 of 59 people found the following review helpful.
4Your Ship, My Story
By Roger E. Herman
This book and its author have received a lot of media exposure, so I decided to check it out. While Abrashoff espouses proven leadership techniques, the only really new learning is how one man applied the principles on a Navy ship with a complement of 311 sailors. This is more a story of one man's awakening to how leadership is considerably more effective than management; how getting out of people's way is wiser than micromanaging them.

Leadership is emphasized in the book, and in every endorsement quote on the back cover. Yet, the subtitle says "management techniques," not "leadership techniques." Leadership did not come easy to Abrashoff; he had a lot of learning to do...and undo. As he moves through the chapters, this retired Navy Captain talks about his experiences in leading by example, listening, communicating purpose and meaning, creating a climate of trust, focusing on results, taking calculated risks, building people and unity, and strengthening quality of life.

Good leaders can tell you all about these concepts and how they are applied in their organization. Aspiring leaders and those who have not yet seen the light will be awe-struck by what Abrashoff accomplished. Solid, experienced leaders will see this book as more of a case study and a reinforcement of what they're already doing. As I have observed today's military leaders-as a citizen and as a consultant who has had the privilege of working with military leaders, the "system" is not as counterproductive as the author would lead us to believe. Bureaucracy is still bureaucracy, but Abrashoff is not alone in his practice of leadership skills.

Abrashoff applied leadership skills on his ship to achieve significant measurable results. I'm glad he documented his achievements so others might be inspired. I noted that he compared and linked his military experiences and perspectives to civilian applications. Through relationships with Fast Company magazine and other organizations, this author is now giving speeches and probably consulting. This book and the attendant publicity could be viewed as effective tools to position him as a sought-after speaker.

In all fairness, while the leadership principles and anecdotes from the USS Benfold are certainly present, this book struck me as more of an autobiography of the growth of a leader. For a treatise about leadership and considering the title, I was surprised to see such heavy use of first person pronouns in the writing.

Company owners and senior executives will find the book valuable as a case study of one man's experience. Managers will learn principles and techniques that can substantially improve their performance. Some readers will feel reinforced; others will feel discomforted by the heavy sense of ego and rationalization. It's a shame that Abrashoff did not choose to stay in the Navy to effect those changes he says are so needed; instead he left the service to write a book focused on two years of his work and hit the lecture circuit.

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful.
By Gail Cooke

A new captain taking command of a ship is a ceremonial occasion. There's a reception, speeches, attendance by dignitaries, and the former commander is piped ashore. When Captain D. Michael Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold on June 20, 1977 it was patently obvious that the crew was not at all sad to see their former captain leave. Abrashoff began to wonder if when he departed in two years the situation would be the same.

He well realized that he was totally responsible for the way the crew performed. But, how to do it without a company of unhappy men? As he points out being liked wasn't necessary but he did want to win his men's respect and trust. Thus, all would be more effective. The knotty question was how to do this.

In search of answers Abrashoff turned to some exit surveys, assuming that the main reason for leaving would be low pay. That was not the case at all. People left because they did not feel respected and they did not feel they had an impact on the organization. A low salary came in fifth as a cause for moving on. Abrashoff felt that he could apply these principles to his crew, and he did with stellar results.

Firstly, he stresses the importance of seeing the ship through the eyes of the crew. He solicited suggestions and many times found them to be extremely helpful. Communication was also high on his list as well as instilling in the men a sense of importance in what they were doing.

The payoff for captain and crew came not only in huge cost savings but also achieving the highest gunnery score in the Pacific fleet.

Abrashoff posits that what brought extraordinary change and success aboard his ship can do the same for a business. You'll be a believer after hearing his suggestions read in his own voice, one that speaks clearly, without hesitation, and with authority grounded in proven experience.

- Gail Cooke

70 of 88 people found the following review helpful.
By C. Davis
I highly recommend this book. It has many specific recommendations and techniques that one can take and immediately apply to any leadership role. The book is well written and reads quickly.

However, think it is important to point out a couple of issues. First, the "by line" of the book lists "Captain" Abrashoff as the author. Yet the picture shows him as a "Commander", the next rank below Captain. While it is Naval tradition to call any Commanding Officer Captain, that does not change his actual rank nor does that officer get to keep being called Captain after they leave the Commanding Officer job. It seems to this reader that Captain Abrashoff is indulging in a little self-promotion (pun intended) to give his book a bit more credibility.

That brings me to the second point. Mr. Abrashoff is no longer in the Navy and has started a leadership and consulting business. This book is part of the marketing plan that supports that effort. It is a mistake to assume that he is a disinterested Naval Officer who just wants to share some good ideas that he has had with the larger public.

Third, while BENFOLD is indeed a great ship with a superb reputation, many of the accomplishments discussed in the book, such as passing the Final Examination Period early, happened in a larger context of changes in the Navy's training cycle. At that particular time, the emphasis was on allowing ships to complete the first third of the cycle (often called the basic phase) as early as possible. This was done so the Commanding Officer could use the remainder of the time and fuel allotted under the basic phase for training that he deemed important. So while Mr. Abrashoff did have quite a lot of success in early completion of training, the larger system was primed to support him.

However, despite all these exceptions, the book is extremely useful. As a career Naval Officer, I would recommend this book to anyone about to assume their first command, officer-in-charge, or executive officer billet.


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