It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff is a really good book if you are ever contemplating a management position or are currently in a management position. The story does a great job laying out examples of how Captain Abrashoff took a poor performing ship in the navy to become one of the sought after ships people wanted to be assigned to.
Even though most of the concepts are not new in this book nor do I think the author claimed that the methods he used were entirely his own. I do think how he accomplished them is very interesting and sheds some light on how he thought about things differently during his command. In fact, many of his stories are how he tried doing something one way only to talk through and come up with a better way. It goes to show you that he too was learning through the process from day one.
Of course, trying something new is never easy. For one thing, there aren’t any precedents to guide you. And that can be a very good thing.Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Now, as much as I enjoyed the book I feel how it was laid out did not necessarily flow as well as I would have liked as I feel he repeated himself from time to time. The reason for that is obvious as he was breaking down chapters into Management topics and not in the chronological order that events happened. It is just something to think about as sometimes I was trying to figure out in what order he started to do certain things or implementing new tactics.
Different than some of my other book reviews I am going to just write out a couple of notes I took that may or may not be helpful to you. Now as I mentioned the book is very focused from a managers prespective. However, the notes I took could be turned inward as well. Depending on your line of business or work you do because in all honesty aren’t we kind of an employee even if it is for ourselves?
As I read the book the following themes stuck out to me that could be used in any situation depending on how you read it.
Lead by Example
This seems to go without saying. Can you actually do what you are asking others to do? Also, if you got different results than you were expecting to ask yourself his simple questions:
- Did I clearly articulate the goals?
- Did I give people enough time and resources to accomplish the task?
- Did I give them enough training?
- Listen Aggressively
Abrashoff got personal in his discussions with the crew while learning about their personal lives, why they joined the Navy and their thoughts on how to improve the ship. By taking the time to listen and not just give orders he discovered that he had a crew of smart, talented, and innovative men and women, but they weren’t being heard. This can be true in many interactions today, sometimes the best thing to do is listen to the other people instead of making sure your voice is heard. You might find something out that can be more beneficial to your purpose or goal.
Communicate with Purpose
No matter how fantastic your message is, if no one is receiving it, you aren’t communicating. It is up to you to clearly define the mission and vision of the organization and then to communicate clearly and concisely.
Everyone in an organization must feel comfortable taking calculated risks. The key is to know the parameters in which they can take those calculated risks and that everyone understands that you might not always win. Remember to not over encourage perfection as it will limit your ability to think creatively and take risks.
As a manager myself I found this one spot on with his quote.
Show me a manager that ignores the power of praise and I will show you a lousy manager, praise is infinitely more powerful than punishment.Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
However, as with most of these points above, the simple act of giving praise to someone even if you don’t have a working relationship as the book describes can go a long way. There are a lot of people putting stuff out there and the act of giving recognition might seem small for you but 100x the effect for the person receiving it.
I would recommend this book as I found it an interesting read with a couple of good takeaways. I don't think this book is for everyone as some of the takeaways can be found in other books. However, I enjoyed hearing the stories of how Captain Abrashoff achieved his success.