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It's Your Ship

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It's Your Ship

Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy

Warner Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If your business is at sea, get everything shipshape with management advice from a Navy captain. Make waves.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Like many books on leadership from nonbusiness walks of life, this sea tale offers a refreshing new perspective. US Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff explains how he and his crew turned their under-performing vessel into the pride of the Pacific Fleet. His colorful, somewhat self-promotional style of storytelling makes it enjoyable, especially for those who are curious about life on a guided missile destroyer. What is less clear, however, is how to apply the Captain’s lessons from a naval vessel to the business of running an ordinary corporation. "Generate unity" and "build up your people" are noble maxims, but how do you apply them in a corporate environment where the greatest threat often stems from friendly fire? In any case, the Captain offers engaging stories about how he steered the USS Benfold back on course. getAbstract recommends his book to executives and students of management who appreciate an anecdotal approach to shipshape leadership.


Assuming Command

The USS Benfold is a sophisticated, powerful 8,600-ton guided missile destroyer in the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. It is a beautiful ship crewed by 310 highly trained individuals. Its four gas turbine engines are capable of propelling the vessel at more than 33 miles an hour, so fast that at top speed it tosses a huge rooster-tail of backwash into the air. But, when Captain D. Michael Abrashoff assumed command in 1997, the Benfold was in grievous trouble:

  • The ship was dysfunctional and the crew was sullen.
  • The US Navy, itself, routinely lost almost a third of its sailors before the end of their enlistment contracts. Less than half of its sailors reenlisted for a second tour.
  • The Benford’s reenlistment rate was a truly dismal 28%. Sailors left because they felt they weren’t treated with respect and dignity.

By the time Abrashoff walked off the ship 20 months later:

  • He had reduced serious equipment failures by two-thirds.
  • The ship operated on 75% of its budget.
  • It earned the Fleet’s highest gunnery score.
  • The ship’s retention rate jumped to 100%.
  • It won a trophy as the most combat...

About the Author

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff is the former commanding officer of the USS Benfold. A graduate of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, he also served as military assistant to then Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. Abrashoff left the Navy in 2001, becoming founder and CEO of Boston-based Grassroots Leadership Inc.

Comment on this summary

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    J. M. 7 years ago
    Great case study of creating a high performance team.
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    L. A. 7 years ago
    Very interesting! I learned a lot about leadership from this book. Despite the writer is a captain, a military guy, he lead his ship in much different way. Pretty much talking about empowerment of his team.
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    M. H. 9 years ago
    The crew of any corperation is only as good you allow it to be.

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