Straightforward Success On “The Best Damn Ship In The Navy”

Originally published November 1, 2012.

Republished September 2, 2015 after a web host transfer.

Straightforward Success
Having your physical, mental, and emotional needs in a particular situation
satisfied, setting you up to succeed through your own efforts

This is post #1 of 5 USS Benfold posts to help you understand
how one type of success sparks other types of success.

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff turned the world of Navy guided missile destroyer USS Benfold upside down. Instead of demanding that his crew set aside their physical, mental, and emotional needs for the sake of the Navy, Captain Abrashoff satisfied the physical, mental, and emotional needs of his crew for the sake of the Navy. Satisfying the three basic needs together releases their power together, the power of 3 satisfactions.

Satisfying Physical Needs

First, Captain Abrashoff talked to every crew member involved with food on the ship to find out why the food was terrible. Then he made sure everyone was doing their best to improve it. After talking to the cooks, Captain Abrashoff began visiting the galley regularly to tell the cooks he appreciated their “hard work”.

Second, Captain Abrashoff then gave the cooks the opportunity to make even better food. The Navy used to require ships to first get bids from companies that sold food in bulk and then buy from the lowest bidder. Sailors ate “nameless peanut butter” and “mystery meat”. After Secretary of Defense William Perry convinced Congress to pass the Federal Acquisition Reform Act, ships could buy food on the open market. Captain Abrashoff made sure Benfold‘s supply officer took full advantage of that law. They saved so much money paying civilian prices for high quality food that Captain Abrashoff sent several Benfold cooks to culinary school.

Third, the Navy issued ugly bad weather jackets that did not keep sailors warm and dry. A Benfold sailor found a civilian jacket that was much better and told Captain Abrashoff about it. Captain Abrashoff replaced the standard Navy jackets with the civilian jacket. It cost less, kept sailors warm and dry, came with built in flotation devices and reflective stripes, saved money, and looked cool. Captain Abrashoff’s squadron commander made sure the other five ships under his command received the same jackets. All jackets had the ships’ names stenciled on the back.

Satisfying Mental Needs

First, Captain Abrashoff gave his crew the freedom to “dream up better ways to do their jobs”.

Second, Captain Abrashoff had an SAT administrator brought to the ship so sailors could take the test.

Third, Captain Abrashoff made a Navy program of math-refresher courses, college-prep English courses, and college courses on CD-ROM available to any interested sailor.

Satisfying Emotional Needs

In his effort to understand how to help less-talented people ”transcend their limitations”, Captain Abrashoff read military exit surveys. He wanted to learn why sailors left the Navy. Through those surveys and further research, Captain Abrashoff discovered people leave the Navy for the same reason people leave civilian jobs.

Not being treated with respect or dignity

Being prevented from making an impact on the organization

Not being listened to

Not being rewarded with responsibility

For both military personnel and civilians, low pay came in fifth in the list of complaints.

Abrashoff decided to directly address the sailors’ top four gripes.

First, Captain Abrashoff listened to the ideas of individual crew members and took appropriate ideas to his senior officers

Second, Captain Abrashoff created the Running Mates program. Veteran sailors met new sailors at the airport, brought them to the captain’s cabin to call home, and spent five days showing them around the ship and around Benfold‘s home port of San Diego

Third, Captain Abrashoff made sure the crew knew that their efforts were making a difference and that they were capable of anything

Fourth, Captain Abrashoff met with each new sailor within their first 48 hours on ship for a “get-to-know-each-other talk”.

Fifth, Captain Abrashoff rewarded his crew with responsibility by freeing the crew to fulfill their talents.

Sixth, Captain Abrashoff corrected junior officers’ mistakes without berating them.

Seventh, Captain Abrashoff extended respect and dignity to the sailors’ families sending birthday cards to spouses and by sending letters to parents of sailors from “hard-scrabble backgrounds” expressing honest praise.

Eighth, Captain Abrashoff went out of his way to promote fun experiences for the entire crew. The fun thought up and created by Benfold‘s crew included:

Music videos projected on an angled superstructure of the ship

Pumpkin carving contests

Jazz & Cigar Nights on the flight deck

Alcohol free happy nights (Fridays) with steamship round, buffalo wings, shrimp, and karaoke

Music played over a huge stereo system while the crew did mundane, repetitive jobs

Saturday Night at the Drive-In with double features, popcorn, beach chairs, blankets, and pillows

Speedboat races

Laser light shows

Changing from the Navy requirement for sightseeing in Dubai in 66 passenger buses to sightseeing in 10 passenger vans

Assigning two officers and two chief petty officers fulltime responsibilities as “fun coordinators” in Dubai

A live concert with a crew member impersonating Elvis Presley

Kite flying contest

Among other things, Benfold‘s crew needed good food, mental challenges, and fun experiences. Captain Abrashoff satisfied those needs.

The 2nd USS Benfold post will explain Captain Abrashoff’s ingredients for serendipitous success.

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Time Warner Books Group, New York: 2002
Quotes on 13, 28, 142, 151, 191

Paula M. Kramer
Resource Rock Star (See websites below.)

Copyright 2015
All rights reserved.

Posts on this blog alternate with posts at the link below. Posts for both blogs are published on Wednesdays as they are ready to be published. Time between posts could be weeks.

blog.speakingfromtriumph.com

Keep reading this blog for examples of 7 successes & 7 failures + soured success. Use the examples to:

Choose success instead of failure for yourself.

Recognize when other people are choosing failure for you.

Standards For Success Posters

Success & Failure Choices

Resource Rock Star Details

smilessparksuccess.com

speakingfromtriumph.com

Serendipitous Success On “The Best Damn Ship In The Navy”

Originally published November 8, 2012.

Republished September 3, 2015 after a web host transfer.

Serendipitous Success
Being in the right place at the right time to just by chance
benefit from someone else’s success

This is post #2 of 5 USS Benfold posts to help you understand
how one type of success sparks other types of success.

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff was commander of the Navy guided missile destroyer USS Benfold for two years. During those two years Benfold set records in combat readiness and effectiveness and invented processes adopted by the entire Navy. Captain Abrashoff’s recipe for serendipitous success included three ingredients:

310 parts respect

310 parts freedom

310 parts support

Respect

Respect the talents of all 310 members of the Benfold crew.

Adjust the respect to the individual when necessary.

Captain Abrashoff showed general respect for his crew daily by:

Going to the end of the food line behind even the lowest sailors.

Seating the Master Chief to his immediate left during meetings.

Listening to ideas from any crew member because “talent knows no rank”.

Freedom

Sprinkle freedom in every section of the ship.

When appropriate, sprinkle freedom at Navy bases and related locations.

Captain Abrashoff gave the crew a variety of freedoms:

Taking responsibility for making decisions and using their own ideas.

Assigning the tasks of senior grade officers to junior grade officers.

Questioning any rule and critiquing any other member of the crew. This included the freedom to tell Captain Abrashoff he hadn’t done his job very well on a particular day.

Acting a little crazy.

Having a life on the Navy’s time.

Captain Abrashoff did put limits on the freedoms he gave the crew. Any decisions with the potential of killing or injuring people, wasting taxes, or damaging the ship were Captain Abrashoff’s responsibility. Every other decision was the responsibility of the crew.

Support

Add support as necessary.

Captain Abrashoff supported his crew in a variety of ways:

Bringing good ideas to the attention of senior Navy officials no matter what the rank.

Protecting crew from abusive senior officers.

Assigning a 20 year old Fireman who had completed the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist training to give a tour of the entire ship to a four star general.

Following up when any sailor asked him to compliment another sailor’s job well done.

Playing cards with two sailors who had created trouble but who had responded well to mentoring.

Walking through the galley frequently to express appreciation for the cooks’ hard work.

Captain Abrashoff added support as he saw the need for support.

The Serendipitous Success Captain Abrashoff’s Recipe
Created for Others

While at its base in San Diego, Benfold with its culinary school graduates became “a lunchtime mecca” for sailors from other ships on base.

During the 1997 Persian Gulf Crisis, Captain Abrashoff’s respectfully listened to Radioman First Class John Rafalko’s idea about ending a communications crisis. A communications backlog meant that “at any given time, as many as 7,000 operational messages might go astray of just stop moving”. Radioman Rafalko was the only person who had read all the technical manuals for a new satellite system for voice communication and rapid data transmission. He figured out how to end the backlog and explained it to Captain Abrashoff.

Captain Abrashoff supported Rafalko by contacting a two star admiral’s chief of staff. When the chief of staff paid no attention, Captain Abrashoff went over the chief of staff straight to the admiral. The admiral paid attention and Rafalko trained personnel on every ship in the gulf. The system “worked perfectly” and the backlog problem disappeared “virtually overnight”.

Captain Abrashoff happened to be on the bridge one day during the 1997 Persian Gulf crisis when all of the other officers on the bridge ignored a suggestion from Fire Controlman Derrick Thomas. The United Nations had ordered inspections of all ships entering or leaving Iraq. The U.N. wanted to prevent embargoed oil from getting out and prohibited materials from getting in. The U.N. required paperwork was “excruciatingly time-consuming and tedious” with more than 100 questions. Communication between ships during inspections had to cope with some cases of “very poor English”.

Petty Officer Thomas suggested a database to speed things up.  Captain Abrashoff was the only officer on the bridge who even acknowledged that that Petty Officer Thomas had said anything. Captain Abrashoff asked Thomas to explain. Fifty or sixty of the questions were the same with every inspection, and the answers were always the same. By creating a database, inspection time could be cut in half. Captain Abrashoff told Thomas to create the database for the more than 150 ships that needed inspecting. Commodore Duffy, in charge of the inspections in the Gulf, was impressed. He passed a copy of the database to every ship doing inspections in the Gulf. That database is still in use. The inspections had been tediously going on for six years until Captain Abrashoff respected Petty Officer Thomas by listening to him.

When the Pentagon “imposed strict new requirements for arming and firing” Tomahawk missiles, Benfold sailors read through training manuals (which they did together) to learn how the equipment worked. They knew they had the freedom to take responsibility, so they thought up knew ways to meet the requirements and sent a memo to other ships in the Gulf. The entire Navy adopted the methods devised by Benfold‘s sailors as standard operating procedure.

When one sailor suggested using stainless steel bolts and nuts to replace the ones that left rust streaks, Captain Abrashoff listened. He supported the sailor’s idea by shopping at Home Depot. He then had a civilian company treat all metal susceptible to corrosion to make them last longer (the Navy had begun doing this on a very small scale). The schedule for painting the ship went from every two months to every five years. This process saved taxpayer money and gave the crew more time to become combat ready.

When a teenage sailor told Captain Abrashoff that he would rather help children in foster care have better experiences than he had in foster care, Captain Abrashoff listened. He told the sailor to find an elementary school in San Diego that the crew could adopt. A group of sailors went to the school every time Benfold was in San Diego. First, they painted the school. After school hours, the sailors mentored, coached, and tutored the students. In foreign countries, 40 to 50 sailors would “go off and find an orphanage or hospital that could use a few helping hands.”

A senior officer task on Naval ships is officer of the deck. Captain Abrashoff gave officer of the deck responsibilities to his junior officers. The officer of the deck is in charge of the quarterdeck when the ship is in port. Responsibilities include security, logging in visitors, keeping track of anything leaving or entering the ship, and creating a good impression of the ship. Captain Abrashoff made sure the junior officers were scheduled during the day instead of just at night. Benfold‘s junior officers handled officer of the deck responsibilities so well that other ships began giving officer of the deck responsibilities to junior officers. This freed senior officers to handle other responsibilities on ship.

Captain Abrashoff respected his crew, freed them to fulfill their talents, and gave them support where they needed it. By doing so, the USS Benfold created a variety of serendipitous successes for crews on other ships, for the entire Navy, for all U.S. civilians, and for schools, orphanages, and hospitals here and in other counties.

The 3rd USS Benfold post will explain how Captain Abrashoff practiced smart success.

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Time Warner Books Group, New York: 2002
Quotes on pages 15, 16, 56, 57, 58, 96, 98, 128, 157, and 158

Paula M. Kramer
Resource Rock Star (See websites below.)

Copyright 2015
All rights reserved.

Posts on this blog alternate with posts at the link below. Posts for both blogs are published on Wednesdays as they are ready to be published. Time between posts could be weeks.

blog.speakingfromtriumph.com

Keep reading this blog for examples of 7 successes & 7 failures + soured success. Use the examples to:

Choose success instead of failure for yourself.

Recognize when other people are choosing failure for you.

Standards For Success Posters

Success & Failure Choices

Resource Rock Star Details

smilessparksuccess.com

speakingfromtriumph.com

Smart Success On “The Best Damn Ship In The Navy”

Originally published November 18, 2012.

Republished September 5, 2015 after a web host transfer.

Smart Success
Seeing opportunities for serendipitous success in people
who are different from you because you understand
that your success is connected to their success

This is post #3 of 5 USS Benfold posts to help you understand
how one type of success sparks other types of success.

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff was smart to see the possibilities for success in every member of his 310 person crew. He recognized his young crew as “smart, talented, and full of good ideas”.

To free those smarts, talents, and good ideas, Captain Abrashoff interviewed all 310 crew members.  He asked everyone:

“Is there a better way to do what you do?”

“What do you like most about the Benfold?”

“What do you like least about the Benfold?”

“What would you change?”

Through these interviews, Captain Abrashoff developed personal relationships with each crew member to link his goals with their goals. For Captain Abrashoff, “the VIPS were my crew.”

Captain Abrashoff also practiced smart success about his own words and actions. When results were not what Captain Abrashoff wanted, he was smart enough to ask himself:

“Did I clearly articulate the goals?”

“Did I give people enough time and resources to accomplish the task?”

“Did I give them enough training?”

He discovered that “90 percent of the time” he had done something that prevented the crew from using their smarts, talents, and good ideas.

The few times his crew members made serious mistakes, Captain Abrashoff was smart enough to still see possibilities for success. After three sailors had been in a fight off the ship, Captain Abrashoff set up mentoring for them to help them succeed. When a chance opportunity arose, Captain Abrashoff showed personal support for two of the sailors by playing cards with them in the mess deck. All three changed their behaviors and turned their Navy careers into successes. (Mentioned in post #2 of this series.)

Captain Abrashoff created smart success where most people would not have seen the possibility for success.

Most of his crew came from single parent homes.

Fifty percent of the crew enlisted because they could not afford college and because they were discouraged from going to college.

Thirty percent of the crew had enlisted to escape bad situations at home — drugs, gangs, and violence.

Because Captain Abrashoff was smart enough to see the possibilities for success in people this society usually ignores, they were free to create unexpected success. When it came time for a “mini-Olympics of Navy training”, the Benfold sailors redesigned the training, making it “more effective than the Navy had ever dreamed.” They “aced” the final challenge with the “highest score ever.” The challenge was expected to last six months, but Benfold completed it in the first six weeks.

The 4th USS Benfold post will give examples of unforeseen success for Captain Abrashoff and his crew.

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Time Warner Books Group, New York: 2002
Quotes on pages 15, 33, 45, 86, 102

Paula M. Kramer
Resource Rock Star (See websites below.)

Copyright 2015
All rights reserved.

Posts on this blog alternate with posts at the link below. Posts for both blogs are published on Wednesdays as they are ready to be published. Time between posts could be weeks.

blog.speakingfromtriumph.com

Keep reading this blog for examples of 7 successes & 7 failures + soured success. Use the examples to:

Choose success instead of failure for yourself.

Recognize when other people are choosing failure for you.

Standards For Success Posters

Success & Failure Choices

Resource Rock Star Details

smilessparksuccess.com

speakingfromtriumph.com

Spectacular Success For “The Best Damn Ship In The Navy”

Originally published November 23, 2012.

Republished September 5, 2015 after a web host transfer.

Spectacular success
The unforeseen success other people intentionally create for you
because you intentionally create success for them

This is post #4 of 5 USS Benfold posts to help you understand
how one type of success sparks other types of success.

Under the command of a junior officer, USS Benfold created a number of successes for companion ships in the Persian Gulf during the 1997 crisis with Iraq. Because Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and Benfold’s crew intentionally created success for other officers and ships’ crews, Benfold became the “go-to ship in the Persian Gulf” during the 1997 crisis with Iraq.

Benfold also became the model for the Navy’s assessment process. Any ship that could achieve “the same performance levels” as Benfold could skip the six month training process. According to a reviewer of Captain Abrashoff’s book at Amazon, the Navy was looking for a way to do that, but Benfold is still the ship that achieved it.

After retiring from the Navy, Michael Abrashoff wrote three books about his Benfold experiences and his crew and became a highly regarded and popular speaker. His first book, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques form the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, was so popular that Abrashoff wrote a tenth anniversary edition with updated content and a new chapter.

Full Bias Disclosure

I bought both copies of this book. I study and write about examples of spectacular success around the world, and the USS Benfold is far and away my favorite spectacular success.

The 5th USS Benfold post will give examples of how other people spotlighted Benfold’s success.

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Time Warner Books Group, New York: 2002 and 2012
Quotes on 138, 149

Paula M. Kramer
Resource Rock Star (See websites below.)

Copyright 2015
All rights reserved.

Posts on this blog alternate with posts at the link below. Posts for both blogs are published on Wednesdays as they are ready to be published. Time between posts could be weeks.

blog.speakingfromtriumph.com

Keep reading this blog for examples of 7 successes & 7 failures + soured success. Use the examples to:

Choose success instead of failure for yourself.

Recognize when other people are choosing failure for you.

Standards For Success Posters

Success & Failure Choices

Resource Rock Star Details

smilessparksuccess.com

speakingfromtriumph.com

Standout Success For “The Best Damn Ship In The Navy”

Originally published November 29, 2012.

Republished September 5, 2015 after a web host transfer.

Standout Success
Other people responding positively to you
because you created a success they value

This is post #5 of 5 USS Benfold posts to help you understand
how one type of success sparks other types of success.

Benfold‘s crew practiced marksmanship with Tomahawk missiles “all the way across the western Pacific” on its way to the Persian Gulf. Benfold performed this task better than all other ships in the Gulf. Captain D. Michael Abrashoff’s boss gave Benfold enough cruise missiles to make it the “biggest arsenal in the fleet”.

General Anthony Zinni, the four-star Marine in command of the entire Middle East force, gave a speech at the Navy’s birthday ball about how the commanding officers on the Benfold gave sailors the freedom to assume major responsibilities. The party was Benfold‘s “day to shine.” Benfold began earning its reputation as the “go-to ship in the Persian Gulf”.

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Time Warner Books Group, New York: 2002
Quotes on 96, 138

Paula M. Kramer
Resource Rock Star (See websites below.)

Copyright 2015
All rights reserved.

Posts on this blog alternate with posts at the link below. Posts for both blogs are published on Wednesdays as they are ready to be published. Time between posts could be weeks.

blog.speakingfromtriumph.com

Keep reading this blog for examples of 7 successes & 7 failures + soured success. Use the examples to:

Choose success instead of failure for yourself.

Recognize when other people are choosing failure for you.

Standards For Success Posters

Success & Failure Choices

Resource Rock Star Details

smilessparksuccess.com

speakingfromtriumph.com