The USS Benfold was the most technically advanced ship in the world, yet not coming close to its full potential.
Commander Mike Abrashoff turned things around by changing the culture of the organization. He interviewed each crew member to see what was working. He separated tasks into mission critical and “non-value added.”
This distinction, which nobody else had thought to do, proved to be enlightening.
Rust was not just an eyesore
For example, Abrashoff learned form the crew that all the ship’s hardware was ferrous metal, which rusts in salt water. When procurement didn’t have stainless steel bolts, the commander persisted. He had the crew buy up every single bolt they could find at home improvement stores, and hired a firm to finish the ship’s hardware with a rust-inhibiting process that made the paint job good for 30 years.
Why did the commander care so much about the paint job?
Abrashoff saw that his crew was spending entire days sanding and re-painting the ship, which was both a morale-killer and time waster. His talent was to figure out what was obstructing high performance, and to laser in on a solution, even if it meant bypassing conventional channels to get it done.
He attributed the crew’s high readiness to having more time to learn their jobs. The ship not only won a prestigious military award, but enjoyed a 100 percent retention rate for its sailors, vs. a 54 percent rate for other crews.
Pretty good for a ship that was deployed in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq war.
How does this apply to your business?
Think about your company’s mission. What is essential to the mission and what is not? Small problems may seem insignificant, but not if they interfere with the mission. In this case, painting the ship was not essential to the mission, so Abrashoff saw that it needed to be minimized, whatever it took.
In business, value-adding activities are the most important.
Five tips for staying mission critical:
- Divide tasks into A and B lists depending upon whether the task is related to the mission of the company—the source of your revenue.
- If it’s not mission critical: delegate, eliminate or automate.
- Train employees to perform mission-critical tasks.
- Set up systems to simplify non-mission critical tasks such as bookkeeping, payroll and benefits, collections.
- Do everything you can to maximize your cash flow, such as billing on time. Letting this go hurts your bottom line and your credibility.
Remember that today, it’s not enough to be cheaper and better, you must be cheaper, better and faster.
Are you unsure how to identify and separate mission critical tasks in your organization? Comment or contact us directly at CHB Associates to see if coaching can help you get back on course.