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It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy Hardcover – May 22, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 550 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

At the age of 36, the Navy selected Mike to become Commander of USS Benfold - at the time, the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The immediate challenges that faced him were staggering: Exceptionally low morale with unacceptably high turnover and poor performance results. Few thought that this ship could improve.
The solution was to establish a system of management techniques that Mike calls Grassroots Leadership. At the core of his leadership approach on Benfold was a process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion, and by engaging the hearts, minds, and loyalties of workers - with conviction and humility. "The most important thing that a captain can do is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew." According to Mike, Grassroots Leadership and his Leadership Roadmap is a practice that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. "It's your ship," he was known to say. His former sailors to this day still remind him of it.
By every measure, these principles were able to achieve breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1 percent. The rate of military promotions tripled, and the crew slashed operating expenses by 25 percent. Regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, Benfold won the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness.
Mike recounted the leadership lessons from his turnaround of USS Benfold in It's Your Ship. First published in 2002, it quickly became a classic in the field of management books. It's a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller.
Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Mike served as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Dr. William J. Perry. He also helped draft the air defense plan for naval forces in the Persian Gulf in 1990, coinciding with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; and served as the Executive Officer of the Cruiser Shiloh, where he deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
Mike, a 1982 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, is now an experienced entrepreneur and thought leader having founded GLS World, a leadership development company dedicated to helping organizations an individuals deliver the best results in a challenging global environment. You can visit his website at www.glsworld.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (May 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446529117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446529112
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (550 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger E. Herman on June 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a plankowner of the Benfold and admired Capt. Abrashoff's leadership. His superior leadership brought the moral of our ship from just ordinary shipboard life to a ship that many in the fleet wanted to become a part of. Our ship was a show-piece and we were proud to carry out his orders. What could have been a horribly desolate six months on deployment, including the holidays spent in the Gulf in 97-98, turned into a memorable experience for all, thanks to Capt. Abrashoff who even made UnRep a grand event! We learned from him that although we had a VERY important job to conduct, we were rewarded with pride in our accomplishments. Capt. Abrashoff was a very approachable Commanding Officer, an experience I had never encountered in the military and has been rare while employed with state government. He made an effort to see that his crew not only did their jobs exceptionally well, but that we enjoyed the festivities he provided for the ship while in port. I have read his fantastic book, reliving all the memories of my Benfold life and have used his leadership knowledge to become a successful professional in the "civilian" world. To the readers who feel Capt. Abrashoff is "arrogant" in his leadership style--I think if you had as awesome a ship as the Benfold to be a part of, you would be extremely proud of it and the leadership that made it such a fine place to spend a few years of your life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As Yogi said... De ja vu all over again. D. Abrashoff graduated the USN Academy in 1982, I graduated the USAF Academy in 1983, a comtemporary of mine then. Reading his book reminded me of all the things I suffered through my tour of active duty. It also reminded me of the basics I was taught at MY academy. On a theoretical level, nothing new here. On a practical level, this book is a gem, and I have just recommended it to my process improvement team.
The book is packed full of some ones learning on how to implement what a lot of other books explain in theory. The author doesn't plot out checklists, but gives meaningful anecdotes to explain his experience and point he is making. His key points are the chapter headings:
Take Command
Lead by Example
Listen Agressively
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
Improve Your People's Quality of Life
A key take away for me, and in my experience, it is one thing to "COPY EXACTLY" (stealing an Intel term), it is another to understand the principle. By his examples, he indicates that other ships copied techniques (benchmarking) and improved specific areas of performance (all good), but failed to understand the principles involved. This allowed them to not extend improvements to other areas of their processes. This has been mimiced in business by all the failed initiatives that litter the highway, all good if you pay attention to their design, key assumptions, and core principles.
I though the book was well written, to the point, well illustrated with examples, all expressing key truths (though not new, well done). You can find other books that take each aspect (check the chapters) and dive deep into theory, but if you want a practitioners guide to how to get it done, this is a great book.
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Format: Hardcover
I just read Abrashoff's "It's Your Ship" and strongly recommend the book to managers at all levels and academics that teach Management, Organizational Behavior and Leadership. The author, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff - former commander of the USS Benfold, write in an engaging, easy to read style. The information he conveys is priceless. If you are concerned about productivity, profitability and opportunities for growth, the book is a handbook for success.
Having spent many years in the "old Corps (USMC)", heavy industry and higher education, I, too, have come to reject the old fashioned and dysfunctional command and control approach to leadership. There is a much better model and it is well described and richly illustrated in this book.
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