Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: It’s Your Ship, By Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

The Premise:
Former Navy Captain of the USS Benfold shares his “management techniques from the best damn ship in the Navy.”

The Good:
As a business book in an industry I’m unfamiliar with, the Navy, I found a lot of the stories entertaining and the first half of the book is quite poignant. The fact that Capt. Abrashoff found success in what is perceived to be a rigid structure makes his accomplishments seem all the more heroic (and I suspect lends legitimacy to his management techniques). Through personal anecdotes, the reader learns about the challenges Capt. Abrashoff faced and how he empowered his crew to think on their own and ultimately succeed. There are a lot of “yep, I’ve faced a similar situation” type moments throughout the book and it seems like a good book for managers who have become stagnant in their thinking. The book is also short enough to be read in a morning and could be used to jumpstart a discussion around the office.

The Bad:
The book becomes repetitive in the back half with plenty of “wait, didn’t I already hear that story” moments. It also lacks depth. Managers looking for actual how-to techniques need to read another book—I recommend 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  Worst of all, Capt. Abrashoff doesn’t deliver on his promise to share his failures. He shares a few, but they’re more of the “my biggest fault is that I care too much” variety—successes disguised as failures. While he seems like a sincere and genuinely caring person, I couldn’t relate to the rampant belief that everyone is a diamond in the rough if given a chance—Hollywood is full of plenty of “actors” who can’t act. Also, on a side note, Capt. Abrashoff stresses that he worked hard to save taxpayers money—and I’m sure he did—but there were a lot of times when my hackles were raised at the rampant waste of dollars—burning tons of fuel to get to a destination is a major theme and the most egregious was using helicopters to fly taped recordings of college football games between ships.

The Verdict:
Borrow it. Skim it. And discuss it. There are some nice thoughts in the first half and it’s not a bad way to spend a morning, especially if it’s on the company dime.