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It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy Hardcover – May 22, 2002
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About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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:
Lead by Example
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
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A must-read guide.