N2 People Skills

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Superyachts in the Face of Shipping - Exploring Contributions and the Maritime Industry

Rule Making - Choice,  join in the process or only follow the outcome -

The headline above and paragraph below comes from a post of the Face of Shipping web site.

"Whether or not we like it, STCW along with other standards, minimum or otherwise are here to stay. As often commented seafarers’ voices are missing in the making of the rules. However, seafarers can join organizations and have their views put forward through them. Technology provides "sailing seafarers" the opportunity shape the environment in which they work."

With 2012 comes STCW 2010 Manila Amendments, and MLC 2006 not far behind. What voice did Superyacht owners and crew have when these were drafted. Was it a case that many owners and crew did not belong to an organization, union, or club, and so did not have a voice ?

In the past Superyacht crew and owners had little need to deal with regulatory institutions or compliance. Employing a Captain and crew required little more than a verbal agreement and a handshake. Yachting was viewed as a sport, a pastime.
Owners did not have to deal with such things as:

  • Employee benefits 
  • Background checks
  • Drug testing
  • Wrongful termination issues
  • Hours of work and rest
  • Vacation time
  • Personal space - or any compliance issues for that matter.

But times have changed, the superyacht world has seen immense growth in many places:

  • Yacht length
  • Tonnage
  • Crew complement
  • Accidents
  • Loss of life
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Insurance claims 
  • Cost of ownership

The once low-key pastime of the wealthy, and sport of Kings has evolved into a multimillion, or billion dollar world. Online sites and magazines abound:

News, articles, and views of lavish interiors, stories of owners, Captains, and crew,  forums around the more human factors of what has become a big business, the Superyacht industry.

Of course this also means that Governments and authorities take notice, some formulate new taxes and impose high dues on yachts chartering in their waters. (Again places where owners, brokers and crews voices could make a difference if they had weight behind them.)

The MLC 2006 and STCW 2010 Manila Amendments were generated for, and with input from, the Maritime industry. Perhaps the Maritime industry did not know how to deal with the Superyacht, and simply swept it into the bucket with shipping. Whatever the case, (and even though many items were overdue in the industry), one has to think that owners and crew alike, would prefer having more input up front.

That said both crews and owners may be well advised to research available organizations, associations and clubs and become more involved in the industry as it becomes more regulated.

With PYA, ISS, USSA, MIASF and Nautilus for the seafarer and business, SYBASS for builders, AYCA and MYBA for charter agents and brokers, and YCCSYCM, and  NYYC amongst others as clubs for owners. It is about finding and joining the right one for you, so your voice gets heard and counted. For owners it also gives them another place to find other owners with similar interests, the old club of choice was the RYS but that has some real ties and issues as to Flag.

Is this all really necessary now.

Consider this; the MLC 2006 (article VII) refers to "Consultation with shipowners' and seafarers' organizations" and mentions this several times in the convention. The International Labor office, say the working of the convention is “under continuous review”. To date environmental issues have only just started to be talked about. The choice is yours, be heard, or let the dice fall as they may.

If you want your voice counted, your views included and would rather not be told what you can, or can not do; getting involved is imperative.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

3 Important Points for a Magnificent Relationship with Your Super Yacht

Superyacht owners; before you rush into itinerary mode, calling friends to join you aboard your new Superyacht, you should take note of some tips from past experiences.

No, these aren't tips to get you a better berth in St Tropez or Monaco. These are tips to make sure you get the most from your investment in Superyacht ownership.

As the name and price implies, a Superyacht should offer a large return on investment (ROI); in relaxation, personal enjoyment, entertainment and exploration, for all owners casual or discriminating owner.

And if you are reading this, you likely put yourself in the more discriminating category. So trust us when we say that these 3 points will make for a more pleasurable Superyacht ownership experience.

There are somewhere around 40,000+ crew in the industry, a melange of players from different cultures, age ranges and experience.  You may have heard unbelievable stories, seen accidents caught on film that seem made up, and read bulletins of fatalities on Flag State web sites. It can all seem overwhelming and off-putting.
But these events while true, are mostly avoidable, the result of missing human factor training and development. 

These three key points below are places where you can gain great leverage to a stress free owner/crew/Yacht relationship, a successful and magnificent relationship with your Super Yacht.

1.The Captain is your CEO, personal vetting is essential.

  • Take all the time and effort selecting your Captain as you did selecting your closest employee, whether a CEO,CFO or PA. Life aboard a Superyacht provides situations that require some big decisions other than navigation and maintenance. 
  • Captain’s account for large sums of money and deal with crew and guest interpersonal issues, they are there for your safety and enjoyment and your guests. Your Captain is going to have a lot going on and the relationship you have with them, will affect your entire ownership experience.
  • Crew and equipment issues happen; the best Captain’s turn issues into learning and innovation, situations into harmony, complexity into simplicity. If you feel at all uneasy about the person dealing with these types of details, then your experience will never be relaxed.

2.Take a personal regard as to crew selection.
  • Crew are everywhere aboard your Superyacht, they make more of an impact on your experience than the weather, location, or Yacht.
  • Captains don’t want to change crew any more than you want to see new faces aboard, unless they are your guests. Personalized professional service comes from an intimate professional relationship, not a constant change of heads.
  • Time and effort in crew selection is a step that some owners leave entirely to their Captain, and while this may be fine for a Captain that has been with you for several years, one that you just employed has little personal experience of you or your personal preferences. Extra time spent at this stage will save you a lot of aggravation later. 

3.Training and development of the Human Factor (Your Crew).
  • You can put the very best technical players in the world together and hope they will make a world class team. Or put a selection of people together, provide the best training, development and time to practice, and insure your group will develop into the world class team you should expect.
  • Experienced Captains may have the non-technical people skills that are so important in dealing with the human factor, but does the rest of the crew, and have they all been working together as a unit for years. Individual, leadership, relationship and team development are essential to managing resources aboard.
  • In any day an individual crew member can become a functional leader. Enhanced knowledge of human factors and development of Crew Resource management (CRM) skills and attitudes, could extricate Superyacht operation from incipient accidents and incidents.

In many other industries such as aviation, Coastguard and Navy, this type of (CRM) training and development is mandatory.
Today the Superyacht owner is free to do their own, non-technical training (CRM), and customize it specifically to vessel, crew and owner preferences. How are you supposed to enjoy your Superyacht if you're worried about accidents being on your Yacht, or dealing with crew issues. Give selection, training and development your attention.

Ask yourself: Why did you get into Yachting in the first place, was it to deal with issues?

That's what we thought. ☑

Monday, May 16, 2011

34th America's Cup Ramping up

Exciting opportunities explained today May 18th at the American Super Yacht Forum by Niccolo Porzio Camporotondo, director of the Superyacht program for the 34th America's Cup Event Authority.

The America's Cup is not just be making it's way back to the USA to be raced, but may actually become an exciting event to watch again. And if you happen to be an owner of a Superyacht, the event  is looking like it could be (depending on Oracle retaining the cup) the start to an exciting and exhilarating event for Superyachts to attend for years to come in the USA.

With a new course being looked at as small as one mile by three quarters of a mile, it should make for some exciting racing such as have never been seen before. Superyachts will create an arena of sorts for the new monster cats to race past, bringing the action up close and personal.

This type of short course for these big cats is sure to offer some of the best spectator sailing action even seen, and with an itinerary of 14 days at the beautiful city of San Francisco, Superyacht owners may just want to jump on what should turn out to be THE place to be for 2013.

Owners can take advantage of a Captains Advisory Committee and different levels in ways and places to watch the racing.

The 34th America's Cup web site has all of details and news on seeing some of the best sailors and racing machines in the world.

If you ever wanted an excuse to take your Superyacht to the West coast of the US, this has to be the perfect one Don't get left out of what should prove to be a historic event.

A F1 match race on water. Will the USA hold onto the Cup ?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Unlocking Success & Safety - Innovation aboard the Superyacht - Mental Models - Seafarers & Practical Management

 “Our theories determine what we measure.” -Albert Einstein
Ideas, stories, assumptions, preferences, internal images of how the world’s systems work are the building blocks of your mental models.

Whether an election or overthrow of power, a stock market crash or oil rig expolsion,  a new job position or a bad day. These ‘events,’ or outputs, grab your attention and help build mental models; maps that supply the mental frame for your world.

As Fortune Senior Editor-at-Large Geoff Colvin puts it in his Bestseller Talent Is Overrated,:

A mental model forms the framework on which you hang your growing knowledge of your domain

How do your mental models affect what you do or what you perceive; a lot more than you would like to think.

When you go to work in the morning do you think about whether to turn left or right, or when to change gear in your car; probably not in the detail that the actions actually take place. This framework is built over hours, days and years to form mental maps so you don’t have to consciously think about each detail. Your models help you distinguish what information is important or irrelevant within the systems you live, saving you time and processing power.

What part of your brain is doing this (processing) ?  The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain by Judith Horstman tells us it has to do with your hippocampus:

“Your hippocampus, a pair of tiny seahorse-shaped structures deep in the brain is known to help create new memories, mark our movements through space, and help place our life events in a time line. But it may also be due to a process that involves specialized neurons that mark where you’ve been on a mental map”
 John Medina says in his book Brain Rules :

The hippocampus is specifically involved in converting short term information into long term forms.

So as you create these long term forms (parts in your mental models) they become your driver, the navigator for your actions. If one of your mental models is of general fearlessness then being told you should, or shouldn’t do something to ensure your safety, will have less chance in becoming part of your long term form and new mental model. 

Peter M.Senge from MIT Sloan School of Management puts it this way in his bestselling classic, ‘The Fifth Discipline’ 
“new insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting”
Remember not sharing (feedback of) mental models you can stifle innovation (caused by disconnect), negate safety measures and policies, stall progress and change or bog down learning. This leads to more of the same, or worse, more of what is not working at present.

Teaching  today assumes (many times without thinking) that what is taught is adopted to become a new mental model of the learner, but people change their mental models at different rates. So when young sea cadets are taught (informed) before going aloft on a Sail training vessel 'the correct procedures', as in the Report No. 2/2011 March 2011 from The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB):
 “ the importance of maintaining at least three points of contact, the need to be clipped on at all times, the procedure for changing clipping points from one safety line or wire to another, and challenging or reporting a cadet who was doing something wrong or dangerous.”
It may be assumed and hoped that all cadets change their mental models of perhaps ‘fearlessness’ or ‘machismo’ and replace them with models of crew resource management and situation awareness, self-awareness and assertiveness.

A problem here is when the inputs have little reference to events, are not personalized, (prior event, situation or reference) and so less lightly to override existing mental models.  The book Power of Impossible Thinking  puts it this way:

 In business and other organizations, these interactions become even more complex as individuals with their own mental models interact through group decision-making or negotiation, and they are susceptible to biases such as “group think” that can limit flexibility and constrict options. The ways people make sense of the world are determined to a large extent by the internal mind and to a lesser extent by the external world. It is this internal world of neurons, synapses, neurochemicals and electrical activity, with its incredibly complex structure functioning in ways society have only a vague sense of that is called the “mental model.” This model inside the individual brains is the representation of our world and ourselves.

Mental Models/Mindsets are part of our thinking. They are there even when we do not sense them; they are powerful, and determine what we see and do. If we leave them unchallenged, the world around us will change and our models/mindsets will become obsolete, forcing us to see the same opportunities, and achieve the same results. Shifting from one mental model to another will open possibilities, and spur thinking outside the box of our own mind. The four steps to change the mental models/mindsets are:

  • Recognizing the power and limits of the mental model
  • Keeping the mental models relevant
  • Overcoming inhibitors to change
  • Transforming the world

In the MAIB report quoted previously, a young cadet fell and tragically lost his life when he tried to go around another cadet while aloft , he had un-clipped (aloft), lost his balance and fell. The cadets were all told the same safety instructions prior to going aloft and the report noted:

“This was Jonathan’s second period on board TS Royalist and he was undoubtedly aware of the vessel’s rules to maintain at least three points of contact, and to be ‘clipped on’ at all times when on the yards.”

  So why take this risk. Again back to mental models and how we see events in different ways, one person may look at this as a high risk situation while another (with a different mental model) sees it as a low risk.

As Peter M.Senge writes:

“Why are mental models so powerful in affecting what we do? in part, because they affect what we see. Two people with different mental models can observe the same event and describe it differently, because they’ve looked at different details and made different interpretations.”

A mental model is a way your brain helps you distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information, it frees up your mental resources to concentrate on what is important to you, or the situation of system you are working in. It also enables you to project what will happen next. Geoff Colvin explains it with this example in his book Talent Is Overrated:

Two groups of firefighters, novices and experts, were shown scenes of fires and asked what they saw. The novices saw what was obvious - the intensity and color of the flames. But the experts saw a story; they used their mental models to infer what must have led to the current state of the fire and to predict what was likeliest to happen next. Note that these inferences and predictions are more than just interesting. They are evidence that the experts are far better prepared than the novices to fight the fire.

Mental models are passed from person to person, some good and some not so, this old one below (that should only be a used as a joke) may have been reason enough for the civil aviation to develop Cockpit Resource Management and then crew resource management.

Two rules aboard.
Rule 1: The Captain is ALWAYS right.
Rule 2: See rule 1.

Everyday you use previous experiences (foundation to your mental models) to predict where you should pay attention. Not sharing your mental models with others you live and work with can lead to miscommunications, non-communication and groupthink.

Groupthink occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (Irving Janis, 1972, p. 9).

Symptoms of Groupthink are:

  • Illusion of invulnerability
  • Collective rationalization
  • Belief in inherent morality
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups
  • Direct pressure on dissenters
  • Self-censorship
  • Illusion of unanimity
  • Self-appointed ‘mind guards’

While not all groupthink decisions are bad, the downside is always that other mental models may be missed, and lead to poor understanding of policy or procedures.

 For individuals to come together as strangers and forge a cohesive team that can operate effectively after only a brief acquaintance they must recognize and understand the power of mental models.

Today’s Superyacht owners, Ship owners, Captains, Super yacht management companies and super yacht crews would be well advised in taking note of Mental Models. To work on bridging the gaps between what is thought and what is known. As Yoram (Jerry) Wind, Colin Cook put it in The Power of Impossible Thinking:

“In today’s complicated and uncertain environment, the greatest dangers are not from beasts prowling around outside. More often than not they are in our own minds, our inability to see our own limits and to see things differently.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Self Awareness, a powerful people skill

Self awareness, probably one of the most underrated, under-practiced and un-developed skills of Crew Resource Management (CRM) and  bridge resource management (BRM) aboard the Super Yacht. Self-awareness brings great advantage in productivity, superior performance, safety, service and leverage in all fields of work and personal lifestyles.

To start with we should first point out that we receive a lot of information that our brain is aware of, but chooses to either ignore, store for later, or just process and discard. As you are reading this blog your brain is receiving masses of information, more than it can process, or requires, to pay attention to what your are doing; reading.

You perhaps are aware of the colour of a carpet, a picture on the wall, the sounds of machinery, a distant conversation, the smell of coffee or a cleaning product. But most of the time you will not be able to recall many of the thousands of specific visual sensations you receive. The brain commits many edits of information, discarding much as soon as it deems it unnecessary. Paul E. Bendheim, MD, an internationally recognized neurologist says in his book “The Brain Training Revolution”

“In general, we remember about 50 percent of events the next day, about 10 percent the next week, 5 percent within a month, and less than 1 percent a year of two later. Our brains simply ‘forget’ more that 99 percent of all experiences”

The brain and it’s one hundred billion neurons can only absorb a finite amount of information. So what we choose to hold (are aware of), is very much in our own hands (or heads), which is significant when it comes to good leadership. Whether a Captain or crew member, a CEO of a fortune 500 company or a family member, each and every one of us are parts in much bigger systems that we interact, impact and interconnect with.

People with good self awareness are acutely aware of the impact their interconnectedness has on others and the systems around them. They can change their behavior according to a particular person or situation. Others that have not developed a good sense of self-awareness can easily transfer their likes, dislikes and preferences onto others; for example, because a Super Yacht Captain follows policies, he may assume that his crew will, or because an officer favors ‘logic’ as his or her favorite lens, they may assume others they work with do as well, or because a Chief likes all things in place, he can assume everyone else likes this as well.

These projections tell us everything about ourselves and nothing about the people we are talking to, or interacting with, at work or at home.

Although we are generally quite good at reading others, many times we get self absorbed; not selfish, but caught up in our own thoughts, and the task at hand. Getting a tender in the water, or filling a report in, raising and anchor, or working to hard at leading; when we lack self awareness, we miss the subtleties and signals that others are giving off.   

Looking at how we communicate we can quickly see how important it is to have good self awareness.  According to A. Barbour, author of Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication, the total impact of a message breaks down like this:

  • 7 percent verbal (words)
  • 38 percent vocal (volume, pitch, rhythm, etc)
  • 55 percent body movements (mostly facial expressions)

On top of what we receive consciously, there are also subconscious communications going on as well, as Neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti found in the early 1990‘s when he stumbled on, and named ‘Mirror Neurons’. These neurons have been located in the frontal and parietal lobe areas of the brain. The areas that deal not only with movement, but emotions, sensations, and intentions as well.

The Society for Neuroscience writes this about mirror neurons:
 “The mirror neuron system appears to allow us to decode (receive and interpret) facial expressions. Whether we are observing a specific expression or making it ourselves (a frown of disgust, for example) the same regions of our brain become activated. And the better we are at interpreting facial expressions, the more active our mirror neuron system.”
We have a mass of information coming at us and whether a reinforcing or balancing system, delays can have significant affect, not only on efficiency, but also behavior. Experience should be used in an implicit way not explicit, as circumstances change so will actions, using old experiences in an explicit way says you are not being self aware.

Another problem that comes from not developing self-awareness is what New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Daniel Goleman calls ‘Blind spots’.

Looking at a study (administered by Robert E. Kaplan), of forty-two successful executives ranging from department heads to CEO’s, Mr Goleman wrote in his book ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence:
“Such blind spots can actually motivate people to avoid self-awareness since by knowing themselves they would have to admit to failings that they cannot bear to acknowledge.”
 Problems caused by missing our own tendencies or, ‘Blind Spots’, setup not only failure for ourselves, but the systems and organizations we live and work in. We can turn a perfectly good self-maintaining systems into a system that is cumbersome and inefficient because we continue to look at linear cause-effect chains in problems, instead of looking at interconnections and interrelationships.

In his book ‘The new Executive Brain’ Elkhonon Glodberg,Ph.D says of self-awareness:

 “Our ability to accomplish our goals depends on our ability to critically appraise our own actions and the actions of those around us.”

With good self-awareness you are far better able to see a delay, a poor action, or inaction, and influence the outcome, understanding that small errors of omission can grow into large errors of commission.

For example in the report No 4/2011 from MAIB there are several errors of omission from Captain, second officer and AB on the give way vessel, and also from the two person crew aboard a fishing vessel (stand on vessel), a collision occurs resulting in a fatality. In the report there are multiple places where good self awareness would bring questions and actions thereafter 

The report notes the second officer’s reason for deviating from, Collision Regulations (COLREGS), Master’s Standing orders and Company policy,  was this.

“His experience was that fishing vessels often carried out erratic manoeuvres, and that taking early avoiding action could result in unnecessary close-quarters situations” 

Whether this thought was actually going through the second officer’s mind at the time is not the point, rather what can be done to dissolve the problems of poor interconnectedness and understanding.

The MAIB report concluded that, “the second officer showed a poor attitude towards guidance”  and that the Captain,“did not sufficiently motivate the second officer to follow company’s navigational procedures”.

While these may have been effects, they were not the cause. Self-aware leaders focus less on themselves and more on the people they lead. Did either Captain know how their behavior affected their crew, did they understand or even know their interpersonal style, was it passive, assertive or aggressive, did they think which would be more effective in each situation.

Action taken by the Company of the ro-ro passenger vessel following the accident was to distribute a circular about following company’s navigational procedures, to introduce another procedure that requires master’s to report on competence of a newly joined officer, and to carry out unscheduled audits at sea.

Adding parts to a system that was not the cause of the accident is just adding redundancies. It may slow down the result (another accident), but the parts will not dissolve the problem on their own.
If all the crew were to develop good self-awareness, (in this case basic CRM skills), there should be no need to add to a system (COLREGS), that for all intents and purposes, works well aboard vessels Worldwide when used correctly.

No one is perfect and there are times that we have all experienced a sense of “loosing ourselves” in the moment when engaged in a task. It is in these times, as Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske point out it in their book ‘The Winner’s Brain’ that: 
 “ Having confidence in your strengths is clearly a good thing, but ‘Winner’s Brain Self-Awareness’ means getting a handle on your weaknesses, too.”
The options are open, we can develop and practice self-awareness, use the information to be better more productive leaders and gain superior performance from ourselves and others by how we interact, or ignore this and receive erratic, unknown and unwanted behavior.

Self Awareness is just one of nine skills that N2 develops in SYCROM.They all interact together to create a system that gives the Super Yacht owner a drift to high performance, by letting standards be enhanced by best actual performances instead of being discouraged by the worst.  Follow this link to read about Situation Awareness or contact N2 to learn more about these important non technical people skills.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Slams Japanese Coast After Quake-The power of Water

The power of the sea and water in places it should not normally be is sad and intimidating.

Least any of us forget just how dangerous the sea can be when you are not expecting it. What it must feel and look like at the actual beginning of this wave does not bare thinking about.

For those seeking more information on how to help this page by Google is a good place to start.

Our thoughts are to all affected.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unlock Hidden Potential Aboard Your Superyacht

A great video to push the point that failure is one of the most powerful ways to learn. It also reasons that for those that have an open, or growth mindset, there is no ceiling to potential.

When NASA solicited applications for astronauts, they rejected those with pure histories of success and instead selected people who had had significant failures but bounced back from them. Learning is not in the act of failure but in the recognition and awareness to see what was wrong, and make the necessary adjustments to develop ability.   As we gain new knowledge we build new skills with practice, and as we do this we are building ourselves a better brain.

In his book "The Brain that Changes Itself" Norman Doidge,MD shows us just how positive thinking and an open mindset can grow our brain.

Get stuck with a fixed mindset, of 'we are, who we are, and will never be anything more' and run what systems thinkers call a balancing feedback loop, just doing enough to get by, and keep potential at unexceptional.

Change that mindset to an open one,  step up to running a new system, (a reinforcing feedback loop),  where the Michael Jordan's, and Barbara Arrowsmith Young's worked their magic by using the amazing plasticity of the brain and seeking new knowledge and skills. Jordon did not sit back with unexceptional, or in Ms Arrowsmith's case with the label of "Retarded". They got back up and pushed for more knowledge, failing sometimes, but staying self aware and pushing for growth, developing ability, and emerging as leaders.

Leaders with a growth mindset are needed at all levels of organizations, and no more so than aboard today's superyachts. With large young crews living and working in tight quarters, looking after the lives of some of the world's wealthiest people, Super yacht owners and  management companies may want to think about creating a Yacht culture that prizes the development of ability, self examination, open communication and teamwork, and root out elitism and groupthink.

Teach with an open growth mindset and make sure your managers are committed to the development of the rest of the crew. Super Yacht crew are what stands between unexceptional and exceptional. Don't wait, unlock the potential you have aboard.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Smart Money - First time Super Yacht Owner ?

Popular Super Yacht builders in the Netherlands, Germany, UK and other countries may well be drawing long sighs, as rarely a week goes by without seeing an announcement of a price reduction of a previously owned Super Yacht. These happenings are somewhat mirrored in the Luxury property market, as price drops are to be found in many multi-million dollar luxury homes. 

The front page of the weekend ‘House & Home’ section of the Financial Times (March 5th), has an article titled ‘Follow the smart money’, and looks at property prices away from the main ‘hot locations in the world'. They enlighten the reader as to some price reductions of around 30% in the last year, with some select home prices dropping by 40% over the past 3 to 4 years.
Who’s buying ?  The FT writes, “The type of buyer is changing from older, wealthy people to younger bargain-hunters prepared to cast their net wider”.

The similarity to the Super Yacht market is in the price reductions, millions are being cut from price tags, and seemingly there are buyers out there. Whether they are getting great deals or not is hard to know, as final selling prices are not publicized, but in the March 2011’ issue of ‘ShowBoats International’, eight yachts were listed as ‘Recently Sold'. Seven out of the eight yachts listed combined for a total of $71.5M. “Leo Fun” a Proteksan-Turquoise Super Yacht of 177’ was not originally listed for sale, and so was not included in the total. But this certainly seems to say that the market while perhaps slow, is not dead.

Are these buyers the ‘younger bargain-hunters‘ ?  Are they the needed influx of owners that the industry needs to get it back up on the plane? Whether they are or not, one thing is known, there is a big pool of a previously owned Super Yachts available for purchase.

Buying a previously owned Super Yacht over a new build has always provided an advantage, a reduction in wait time. Here a buyer can gain in the region of a year and a half (from design to launch) in getting out on the water, and enjoying their Yacht. With price reductions rolling in, there is surely more opportunity than ever before for the first time Yacht owner to cast their net in the previously owned Yacht market and find good value for money.

Another bonus of a previously owned Super Yacht, is having the ability after purchase to take a short cruise before rushing into a yard (assuming your survey came back ok). Even if getting straight to a yard seems like a time savings event at first glance, it can actually work in the opposite direction if you miss just one of many important points.

Unless you previously chartered the Yacht you are buying (along with the crew you are going to employe), it is very hard to know what you really need to add or adjust, to create your perfect vision. You may know straight away what you aesthetically “don’t like” about your new Yacht, but taking a short cruise with the idea of feeling things out, will provide huge dividends in saved time, cost and stress. A mini-cruise/sea trial gives you the time, and the situations to asses some of the many vital points:

  • Does the layout work for you, and your style of cruising?
  • Do you have enough privacy, enough entertaining areas, are spaces how you like them?
  • Do the tenders meet your requirements, in fun and, or functionality?
  • Is your cabin as sound proof or light proof as you like it?
  • Can you sleep with the main generator going?
  • Is the AC up to your personal preferences?
  • Do your guest cabins suffer from any of the above?
  • Do you have the boarding arrangement set to work well where you plan to cruise?
  • Do you have the right awning set up, for your preference of sun, shade and relaxation?
  • Are your initial ideas right about special equipment and supplies, wine storage, gym etc
  • Do you like to have the latest equipment on the bridge?
  • Are you happy with the security set up, while in port, and at anchor (cameras etc) ?
  • Are you OK with or without zero speed stabilizers at anchor?
  • Are your Captain and crew (assuming they are technically qualified) up to your standards?
  • Can you get on with them (and they with you)?
  • Do they have all the skill you would prefer them to have?
The list could go on and on, but the last three items listed will probably have the most affect on your overall enjoyment of ownership, and offer the greatest return on investment.

Having a group of strangers suddenly looking after your every whim can take a little getting used to, and knowing they will be privy to your most personal requirements, can seem a little unusual if you are not accustomed to such close personal service. As your crew become more familiar you should start to feel more relaxed, confident, unperturbed, as if relaxing in a favorite chair or wearing a favorite tailored suit (or dress), as comfortable as a second skin. If you do not get this feeling on your mini cruise, then you might think about further crew training and development in soft skills, or people skills. Basically crew resource management.

Nobody needs to meet their shining new Yacht in the Med, Caribbean or other cruising grounds and realize that something is not quite right. Whether a cabin arrangement simply does not work, or they wished they had left the helicopter pad on, or they find out that the generator keeps their partner awake, or worse still, realize that while their crew is technically magnificent, their non technical people skills are just not up to your expectations.

If you are looking at owning, or have just bought a Super Yacht (especially the first time Super yacht owner), save yourself the heart ache and added costs later. Take a mini cruise with the view of finding out any shortcomings before you go in for a refit, or before sending your Yacht off to your chosen cruising grounds.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Luxury Hotels & Resorts meet Super Yacht Ownership

In the 195 pages of what is mostly pictorial form, a popular Super Yacht magazine has over 200 pictures of Super Yachts. In only 8 of these pictures is there any sign of a crew member.

If you view some of the top Hotel & Resort web sites and brochures, your will find similar comparisons, multiple pictures of beauty and tranquility, but void of service personnel.

While this may not be earth shattering news, the point is how luxury is sold. We are tempted with the bait, tranquility, beauty, visions of serenity. “Here is a scene, now imagine yourself in it.”

The pictures rely on memes and these memes activate an emotional connection, luxury tranquility, beauty, moments of serenity = happiness and desire. These personal (visual) connections are created to invite the viewer to dream and accept an invitation.

Now if we look at the hospitality business in the form of a floating iceberg, the top above water being service provided, and the bottom being resources, supplies, training and development of staff etc. there are some interesting comparisons to be made.

Where the Hotel & Resort customer, (as the consumer), is using and enjoying that top third, the Super Yacht owner is in a very different environment. They, while enjoying their service (top third), also have to deal with the bottom two thirds as well. Why? Because they have become both consumer, and provider. Not only this, but Yacht owners have little to gauge their level of service, as employers and consumers, they do not have other consumers there to let them know that service is not up to par, to offer reviews on what continual change in staff feels like, or that their service was OK but not as good as the M/Y “Other”.  No the Super Yacht owner, as privileged as they may appear are caught in somewhat of a catch 22.

While ownership is a wonderful experience, you only have to have had employees somewhere down the road to understand that sooner or later the human factor will raise its ugly head, perhaps pull the best staff down and leave you with the end bits. Or a situation will get blown out of proportion and you may have to change staff.This is where the successful Hotel & Resort companies over the years have learnt what it takes to stay on top when dealing with the human factor and quality personal service. They know that without good training and development, all the technical skills in the world will only get you technically proficient service, fine if you are a middle of the road Hotel chain, but it will not get you to the top, where you can constantly provide top luxury personal service, tranquility, beauty and moments of serenity.

Super Yacht ownership should be the epitome of personal relaxation and enjoyment, complete with a staff that takes care of, and understands your every unspoken want and need. Magically there when needed, and gone when not required. There is no reason why ownership of a Super Yacht should not feel like you have you own personal entourage of genies.

If you are one of the lucky ones and have had a crew that have grown and developed those skills that top Hotel & Resorts train and develop in their staff, then ask yourself how much better your experience could be with a custom developed personal development plan, one that would take your crew to the next level. And if you are not so lucky, then wait no longer, take a page from those luxury Hotels & Resorts and start enjoying the level of service and financial efficiency you deserve.

Call your management company today and get a program set up. Managing those resources is part of ownership but should not be part of the experience, don’t run on yesterdays system, install an upgrade, run a new operating system that will blow the competition out of the water and allow you to truly relax.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Superyacht CRM - One of Nine - Situation Awareness

While many know CRM as "Customer relationship management", the one we are concerned about here is "Crew Resource Management". 

 In our last blog post we mentioned a crew of a Superyacht that went through a real MOB incident. If you read their account of the MOB you will find many places where CRM skills show up or would have been advantageous. This blog is about one skill in CRM, that can help you understand and see the clues to human error. The idea of going through any accident or incident is to learn from them, not judge.
Why Crew Resource Management

Superyachts have evolved into vessels that require significant amount of technical knowledge to operate (run) them, and just as machinery can let you down because of poor design and-or poor operator training (trying to maneuver a jet powered tender at low speed), so to can system effectiveness be reduced by human factors and the variables that relate to them (human error).

CRM goals are to improve crew effectiveness by minimizing team preventable errors (human error), optimize crew coordination and communication, and maximize risk and loss management. It provides teams-crew a framework to process all information and formulate action plans while leaning to recognize the three levels of human error.
  • Slips
  • Mistakes
  • Errors
CRM requires that we reach beyond evaluation of individuals, to that of the entire team (crew) responsible for safety aboard. Different industries use slightly different skills in CRM, but one that is globally accepted as a founding skill is situation awareness.

In CRM terms, Situation awareness is the ability to identify, process and comprehend the critical elements (parts) of information about what is happening to the crew (team), with regards to the system.
In a dictionary,
Situation- facts, how things stand, the lay of the land, what's going on
Awareness- consciousness, recognition, realization; understanding, grasp, appreciation, knowledge, insight; familiarity; formal cognizance.
Basically knowing what is going on around you.


Even though CRM has a lot to do with team, the individual factor will always play a part. Human Nature, (inherited and Universal), Culture (group specific and learned), and personality (specific to the individual, inherited and learned), all bring weight to bear in any given situation. With these there are input factors as show in the diagram-

Situational awareness has three components: awareness, reality and perception, and these three are looked at through five input factors.
  • Environment the weather can have great bearing at sea, also Environment deals with the mental models as well.
  • Regulatory is always with us, sometimes it can feel like a spare leg we do not need, but SOP's and codes are put there for good reason.
  • Organizational is about the Yacht-crew-team culture and general policies as a team, are they tight or loose, strict or casual.
  • Group is all about the crew as they work as together in their organizational environment.
  • Individual knowledge, skills, personalities, motivation, and phsysical and emotional states.
      "under nearly full sail, travelling at 11 knots in two to three metres of swell"
    "Wearing a harness but no life jacket, I climbed up onto the boom"(PFD)
     (follow the link to read the whole MOB)

    If a crew has been sailing in winds that require a reef , they most lightly have been in some foul weather conditions with larger seas. As the true wind drops (apparent wind as well as they are on a run) it can bring a sense of calm and relief. Affecting all five input factors.

    "We have shaken out numerous reefs in a similar manner in the last four years and 50,000 miles"

    When we loose sight of the bubble of awareness, things get flattened out.  20 to 25 knots of breeze with a two-to-three-metre swell may feel small when you are on a 169' yacht, but try that in a 26ft sloop, or as a MOB,  it soon changes from an OK (perception) to a bad (reality). 

    Now let's look at the five input factors through only two components.

    • Environmental weather factors, running with the wind less feel for the need of a PFD perhaps if the sea had been 5-6m. Mental environment (mental model) no one else ever wears a PFD, we are professionals. 
    • Regulatory, got a harness so I won't  need a PFD.  
    • Organizational, no one has ever fallen in before doing this, so preparedness of a MOB may well be stalled. Confusion over when you have to wear a PFD, force 2,5,8 storm ?
    • Group, he's knows what he is doing so we don't have to worry (mental model).  Never had a MOB yet (mental model).
    • Individual, Done this in worse, never had a problem, can't be bothered to get a PFD, no one else ever wears one. I won't fall in. (mental models) I 'm a strong swimmer.
    Reality is a strong elixir. But knowing barriers that can reduce our ability to understand a situation is also important. Here are just a few:
    • Perception based one faulty information, past experiences, expectations, and our individual lenses in perception and judgment.
    • Excessive motivation, job related, maverick etc.
    • Complacency  assuming all is under control, slow day, relaxing guard and vigilance.
    • Overload, distraction, fixation.
    • Fatique is a killer of situation awareness.
    • Poor communication equals poor situational awareness.

    Even though most crews are aware of SOP's we are learning that the human brain is very good at cutting corners and staying efficient (the brain). "If you don't use it, loose it"  is now more than a piece of trivia. Training and development of superyacht crew in CRM makes economical, functional and psychological sense. Like any skill set, CRM has to be constantly maintained and developed to bear it's full bounty.

    SOP's are really a reminder to check in with reality, we all know how to lift a heavy weight (with our legs, not our back) but few of us (unless we train regularly) probably do so. So how do you know if you are not doing something correctly, check in with reality. 

    We have all been there, doing something and knowing better, getting away with something and thinking, I was lucky there! So with that said here are some clues as to loss, or diminished situational awareness.  If you or the team feel any of these, you should think Situation Awareness.
    • Unsureness or a gut feeling about something, confusion
    • No one watching or looking for possible hazards
    • Use of improper procedures
    • Departure from regulations
    • Ambiguity
    • Unresolved discrepancies
    • Fixation or preoccupation
    SOP's and deviation from them can be caused by two things and are part of being aware, errors of omission, failing to do something that should have been done (checking equipment), or errors of commission, accomplishing an action incorrectly or doing something that should not be done (e.g. knowing a risk and not taking an appropriate action).  This is a slippery slope, in that every time a deviation from SOP's is successful, it reinforces the act of getting away with it. This can lead to looking at the deviation as "normal" and end up with crew members not even recognizing that this is a deviation, because it has been done like this so many times by so many people.

    Maintaining Situation Awareness in CRM is about team. It occurs through effective communication and a combination of several other actions by the individual and crew.
    • Recognize and make sure others are aware when crew deviate from SOP's.
    • Monitor the performance of other crew members (behavioral safety).
    • Provide information in advance, don't wait to be asked if it relates to team performance.
    • Identify potential or existing problems, possible faulty equipment related to your task.
    • Understand yours and other crew member's tasks, how they contribute to overall success.
    • Communicate your course of action, don't assume others know what your course is. Share your mental model.
    • Demonstrate awareness of the task, plan ahead and communicate this to crew to share your mental model.
    • Continually asses the situation. Working and living aboard a superyacht provides a dynamic environment, so providing a need to check if crew and self are safely and effectively accomplishing the task at hand.
    • Define expectations clearly so mental models are shared.
    (All extra important when you have new crew aboard, perhaps for delivery)

      It can be easy to to loose sight of what is really going on during high stress situations. This is why it is important that we know (and develop) what behavior is effective in keeping us situationally aware.

      Situational awareness is one critical factor in our ability to respond effectively to a situation. Maintaining a high level of situational awareness will better prepare crews to respond to unexpected situations whether they have to do with MOB, a dragging anchor, a fellow crew member missing or a guest request.  It is just one of many skills in CRM

      My thanks to the Captain and crew of Meteor for allowing the whole industry to benefit from their unfortunate incident.

      Thursday, January 13, 2011

      Realities of being a Crew & Owning a Luxury Super Yacht

      In the  Dec-Jan 2011 issue of 'The crew Report #45" there were two interesting articles about the misfortunes of crew from very different perspectives. One about a man over board (MOB) situation aboard 'Meteor' as the First Officer takes a dunk after attempting to shake a reef out; see below:
      "in the process of clipping on, the boom took a sudden bounce and flipped me off. I fell, headfirst, into the ocean".
      This MOB piece is a great article that gives the reader perspectives from the First Officers point of view (in the drink), and from aboard the S/Y Meteor. It gives insight into some lessons to be learned in equipment maintenance, how easy it is to loose sight of a MOB in light seas, and how you can get disorientated, cognitively, when in the water (even in warm water), and the effects of this in regards to being rescued.

      Top marks to a successful recovery by Captain and crew and thanks for letting everybody learn from the unfortunate event.

      The other piece is about another kind of misfortune.  While living and working aboard a luxury Super Yacht  may look glamorous in the glossy magazines,  providing top quality service and safety 24/7 to some of the wealthiest people on the planet while living with the rest of the crew, is not always as straightforward as it sounds.

        While owners are away from their luxury Yachts the more professional of today's Superyacht crews are hard at work maintaining, repairing, varnishing, polishing and servicing these magnificent floating objects of desire. Unfortunately for some unknowing owner's and some of their crew, all is not always as it seems below decks in the human factor department: See below excerpt from "The Crew Report"

      "On my last boat there was infighting and politics amongst the crew, and they took the partying way too far. I hated it, so I stopped socialising with them and after a while they
      completely froze me out."

      I see. Did this happen on your previous yachts as well?

      "No, I spent my first two years as stew on a lovely 45-metre and I went to this 52-metre boat so I could move up to second stew. I thought being on a bigger boat would be better for my career but if this is what they’re like, it’s not for me. "

      While this unfortunate event does not tell the other side of the story (maybe it was the stewardess that was the problem) it should certainly raise the eyebrows of the Luxury Yacht owner, and their managers to the smoldering fires that maybe waiting for an inappropriate moment to burst into figurative flames.

      While it is easy to say that these type of incidences rarely happen, at a cost of around one million $ a meter to own a luxury Super Yacht, and crew salary well over a million a year, the question surely must be asked. Why should this happen at all?

      Shouldn't Luxury Yacht owners expect the best of the best service aboard their Yachts, just as you you would expect the best at a 5***** luxury hotel or resort?  Perhaps it is here that the answer lies.

      Resorts have to fight to stay on top and be profitable.  Customers get to compare services, efficiency, value to cost of service, and have the opportunity to complain, and even get their money back if not satisfied! The closest that a Yacht owner gets to this is being able to fire their crew.  Unfortunately this ends up hurting the owners wallet and does little to guarantee that the same problems will not exist in a new crew. Same system usually produces the same result, changing parts just delays the result.

      But wait there's more!

       What Luxury Resorts and Hotels do have is (a different system), their own exceptional self-development and training programs.  Why, because Luxury Resorts and Hotels have to stay the best to be profitable, and they understand that great service comes from staff that are engaged, passionate and emotionally invested in the company, and given opportunity will develop and hone new skills. Not from people that maybe just working at the resort to rub shoulders with the wealthy, or working at the Hotel so they can see the world.

      In last Summer's addition of Fraser's magazine for "Living, Loving and Luxury Yachts" there was an article that started with the words "Why own a Yacht in the first place". It brought up a fact that many owners only spend a few weeks a year aboard their Yachts. The article ended with the words " but once you have arrived you should never want to leave" So why do many owners end up spending only a few weeks a year aboard if they, "should never want to leave ?"

      If there is any truth to infighting, crew segregating other crew, and big partying,  perhaps there is light  being shed on issues that need the attention of  the Luxury Yacht owners. Perhaps owners should consider what a profitable Luxury Super Yacht looks like, should it not be one that gives a "return on investment ?" One that makes the owner "never want to leave"and provides Service Excellence ?

      Owners get your ROI
      If this is the ROI, then it requires a crew that is engaged, passionate and emotionally invested in owner and Yacht, and to get this I believe,  owners must take a page from the top Luxury Resorts and Hotels in looking to provide their own exceptional self-development and training programs.

      Given this opportunity to develop and hone new skills, the cream of the crop will rise to the top and be able to concentrate on their main purpose of looking after owners and their guests.

      Times have changed, and it is time to change and put an end to this type of poor and unprofessional conduct. Owners deserve the best, and all crew deserve the chance to give what they are truly capable of:
      Service Excellence

      Sunday, January 9, 2011

      Superyacht Crew Diversity- Are you sure you're getting the Best from it?

       Super Yacht Crew Diversity
      Unleash Innovation and Productivity.

      When Super Yacht owners change, refit, and upgrade their Yacht's and equipment, many miss an inexpensive way to upgrade the Yacht's user experience (their own). 

        It is easy to identify the inherent obstacles and barriers associated with differences.
      The harder part is to make the most of that diversity, develop it to move past great, to inimitable.

      Two things must be remembered:
      • It is difficult to address differences without resorting to stereotypes. In the purest form, there is no such thing as a stereotype. No person is exactly like another person, and no individual is a clone of another member of a group.
      • As diversity of a Yacht crew grows, so does the complexity of communication and the necessity to spend greater effort developing improved communication skills.
      Awareness and discussion create appreciation and understanding. Understanding of personality type and diversity means not just tolerating differences among individuals or teams, but supporting and nurturing them. Diversity  developed produces variety in ideas, perspectives, talents, skills and knowledge, all desirable attributes in a high performing crew. That team becomes far more flexible, adaptable and innovative to meet owner and guest needs within the nonlinear environment aboard a Super Yacht.

      Diversity will produce better solutions to problems,  higher levels of awareness, and result in higher levels of service, safety and security. Providing training and development to create a supporting and nurturing environment enhances efficiency of crew by exposing members to new issues, ideas, information and personalty type. Diversity creates opportunities for character development by teaching tolerance and respect for people, and by encouraging concern for equity. Cultural and personality type diverse crew that value and nurture people from all backgrounds, are worthy of active participation. Such a crew will flourish, perpetuate, raise longevity, development, and unleash innovation and productivity.

      Making the most of diversity in a crew requires the commitment of all involved. Changing existing attitudes and assumptions maybe required, and this is not always easy. It is most often behaviors that have to change rather than attitudes. All members must be committed to what they are doing and address issues related to cultural or personality type difference.

      There is always resistance to disturbing the status quo, but this is no excuse for avoiding change.

      Many people believe in the old golden rule of: “treat others as you want to be treated”, but an unspoken assumption is that, “how you want to be treated, is how others want to be treated”. We all have the propensity to consider we are outside of the system and to blame someone or something else for the problems we may experience.
      When you change your vantage point you discover new insights and new leverage points, and begin to ask “what if” questions:

      What if respect looks different from another point of view; does it mean saying hello in the morning, or leaving someone alone, asking questions, or relying on title, rank and assumed personal mastery?

      While we may share similar values, how we show those values through behavior may be vastly different. How do we know what different cultures and personality type need ? Instead of using the old golden rule, we use: "treat others as they would prefer to be treated."

      Moving the frame of reference from "our way is the best way" to "let's find the best of a variety of ways" helps manage diverse environment more effectively.

      Growth may have it's place to make things bigger (and sometimes slower), but (human factor)  development makes the system better able to do what it was intended to do.