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

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.

Captain Abrashoff saw opportunities for serendipitous success
in his crew because he understand
that his success was connected to their success.

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
© 2015 to the present
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 or months.

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A web host transfer made some posts disappear. Luckily, I copied each post and emailed it to myself. Since I alternated success and failure posts, I will have to remove posts and republish them in success and failure order. I will do this as I have time. Apologies.