During a recent offshore sail from Florida to Texas the weather significantly deteriorated on this blogger and his boat mates. Our 45-foot ocean going sailboat was one in which (mostly) the same crew that has significant sea time together.

That said, there were two days of very uncomfortable passage making. At one-point a nearby ship hailed us on the radio and enquired, “Are you in distress?” We responded, “no we were not” and thanked them for their concern. Both vessels continued their separate courses.

At that moment, our vessel was undergoing a pounding by large waves and from the bridge of the ship, it probably did appear that our yacht was in distress and in possible need of assistance. However, our vessel was simply handling tough sea conditions.

Experienced sailors know that anything is possible while at sea. Therefore, careful preparation is critical prior to any voyage. Simply put, the vessel must be sound, (able) seamen competent, and equipped as appropriate.

The US Navy has identified six principles for shipboard operations, “formality, procedural compliance, level of knowledge, questioning attitude, forceful backup and integrity, focus on human performance and create the foundation for highly effective commands where errors that could lead to minor or catastrophic events are identified and stopped early. Used together, these six principles form the bedrock on which the Surface Force implements the three operating processes: operational risk management; plan, brief, execute, and debrief; and hazard reporting.”

One could make the case that a pleasure vessel need not adhere to these six principles; however, this long time offshore sailor argues that they should as well. For example, there is always only on Master (Captain) of a vessel regardless of long time friendships. Appropriate expertise or Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) for all crew members is essential as well.

Some may notice that the six principles and three operating processes are akin to those found in High Reliability Organizations (HROs). In other words, this short story holds lessons for all as well.

Our vessel was engaged in a mission—transit from Florida to Texas. This mission was supported by a number of processes and associated tools, technologies and human capital to accomplish the overall goal.

When adversity struck, the crew (organization) responded to events on the ground (water) to address the new situation in the spirit of prudent mariners. Is this not allegorical to business?

How Can You Assure Your Organization Will Not Be in Distress When Adversity Strikes?