Book Review #1 – It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy (Captain D. Michael Abrashoff)

This is an attempt to revive this blog from a 2-year hiatus. I thought it would be great to document the books I’ve read and so I’ve done that with a list. I then figured that trying to summarise and critique the books after reading them would also force me to evaluate the books with different lenses instead of giving it a rating on a scale of 1-5 on Goodreads.

I first learnt about this book because it was a book prize given to some of the graduates of the Naval Junior Officer’s Course. The batch that recently graduated found some it’s students receiving this book. I thought, why wait till I win a prize before I can read this book? So I got it.

This book was written by a former commander of an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer USS Benfold. He took over command and turned the crew from unmotivated, resentful seamen to the US Navy’s best performing, most creative, and a supporting group.

As a naval officer myself, I easily understood many jargons he used, though he used them rarely and did explain them in layman terms when necessary. It was an easy read as I could understand many of the settings he laid out for his lessons learnt. The rigid structure of hierarchy in the military, the separation between officers and crew in decision-making processes are some of these examples. I would, however, think that the average reader would have no problem understanding these concepts as they can be readily observed in the politics of private workplaces as well.

Captain Abrashoff’s main thesis is that of empowerment. He believes that when each person involved believes that they are more than an insignificant cog in a machine filled more than a few hundred of them, excellence follows. It also follows closely with one of the drivers of motivation in the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink. In “Drive”, Pink wrote that giving someone a purpose will enhance their motivation exponentially in doing the task and in turn will greatly enhance performance.

Captain Abrashoff came up with a list of “commandments”, as he called it, as a guideline to which leaders can make decisions. An example of this is by “creating a climate of trust”. I find the contents of this book highly useful. I can see that the writer is a highly eccentric and creative character that doesn’t follow the status quo blindly. I’ve learnt a lot from it and recommend this book to anyone. Not just those in leadership positions, because everyone has people around them whom they can impact.

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