The Art of Dredging

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Book Review    "It's your ship" by Capt. D. M. Abrashoff   


This article is based on the book:

"It’s Your Ship -Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy"

by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

Published by Warner Books, 2002
ISBN 0-446-52911-7
224 pages




 Captain Abrashoff wrote this book after a two-year stint as captain on U.S. Navy destroyer "Benfold", describing his leadership journey, and his own ideas how to command a ship and a 310-head-crew in the rigid framework of the U.S. Navy.

The whole book is drenched in managerial powertalk, and beams a slightly naive, narrow-viewed image of leading people.

But if you scratch away the U.S.-Navy-varnish, the book has virtues.

Abrashoff bullseyes almost every page, with the rules of thumb for the captain's job. And regardless if he's commanding a warship, or a merchant ship, a lot of things are common.

"Commanding a navy ship is a lot like running a business. Leaders are expected to lead by example to ensure critical tasks are completed on time, manage, and not waste resources." 

"The most important thing a captain can do is to see the ship from the eyes of the crew."

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; 
  • improve your people's quality of life. 
This is hardly original: read "Leading for Safety" (click link)  from the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and you get the same message. Captain J. Stavridis (US.Navy) writes more or less the same lessons in "Command at Sea" (click link).
This book is worth reading, anyway, if you are an aspiring captain, and want to shortcut to some experience in the field of human resources and leadership.
Marc Van de Velde 

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