High Performing Organizations—AmaWaterways River Cruise Company

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

2 weeks ago I attended a lunch sponsor by the West Point Society of Greater Houston.  The speaker, Col (ret) Tim Kopra, a NASA Space Station Commander, talked about NASA and how so many different people and agencies performed at a high level and how as a group they became better.  It was a great talk and he made very salient points about teams working and training together. 

His talk inspired this blog—my association with high performing units.

I have been directly associated with what I consider high performing organizations at least 3 times in my work life.  So, I’d like to tell about these three organizations and why they were so high performing.  The three organizations are the 2/23 Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Ord CA; the 2001 Bellevue Wolverine High School Football Team from Bellevue WA; and AmaWaterways River Cruise Company.

Characteristics of a High Performing Unit or Organization

While some may differ on what makes a great organization, I believe there are 6 or 7 characteristics that allow an organization to be a high performing unit.  They are 1) a proper organizational design, 2) sufficient structure to allow all to contribute to the mission, 3) processes in place to maximize the talents of all members of the organization, 4) appropriate use of technology, 5) good leadership, 6) skilled and willing people who want to do their best, and 7) a culture that promotes the organizations values.  In the right environment, an organization who excels in these tasks will outperform other similar organizations.  So, using these factors, let’s learn why these organizations were so high performing.

The 2/23 Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Ord CA

Anne & Hank at Fort Ord
Anne and Hank at Fort Ord in 1986

Being an ex-military guy, the best infantry unit I was ever assigned to in my 20 year military career was 2/23 Infantry.  I guess it goes without saying there was a strong structure and a well-designed organization of this 560 man unit.  The training was tough, realistic and we quickly became a well-honed unit.  We were experts at using our equipment and weapons.  Over 10 % were Ranger Qualified—this is the most grueling training in the US Army.  The officers (leaders) were demanding yet really cared about the men and their welfare.  The Battalion Commander was a great soldier—he had a vision and could clearly express his vision of what he expected—we call it in military jargon, the Commander’s Intent.  We always understood the Commander’s Intent—there were clear, concise orders that allow us to know what to do in the absence of orders.  But the fundamental difference was how all executed the Commander’s Intent—everyone seem to understand the mission and get the job done right, often with little or no supervision.  It was amazing, from the highest ranking officer to the newest private, all worked at top efficiency, often in worst weather conditions, tough terrain and with little sleep.  We were the Army’s first Light Infantry Battalion in the Light Divisions concept and, for my money, the best.  Seems to me, 2/23 Infantry was the definition of a high performing organization.

The 2001 Bellevue Wolverine High School Football Team from Bellevue WA

bellevue-football-team-2001
Bellevue WA 2001 State Champs Football Team

The 2001 Bellevue Wolverines were the best high school team in the state of Washington in 2001—they won the state championship, were 13-0 and 55 guys who had one mission—win a state championship.  Not only were they undefeated, they beat the defending state championship team twice on the way to winning it all.  The culture of the team was right—there were high expectations, and all wanted to improve, both players and coaches.  But maybe the single biggest factor was how the coaches managed to get the best out of each player—all contributed to our success.  The players had sufficient athletic talent but it was their willingness to do their best and push their limits that really set them apart.  They were no excuses, no finger pointing when things went wrong, they just rose to the new challenge.  These were high character kids—10 years after the won it all, all 55 had graduated from college.  Can you see the 7 characteristics of a high performing organization in this team?—I clearly can!

Coach Schrader
Coach Schrader teaches his defensive players in preparation for the 3A Championship Game in 2001

AmaWaterways

Chef's Table Staff 2016
Chef’s Table Staff 2016 on the AmaDagio
Crew Caroling 2015
Crew Caroling 2015

So now to my favorite river cruise company, AmaWaterways.  This is what river cruising should be–It is just the right blend of great tour options, wonderful food and wine, comfortable staterooms and a staff only too willing to please.  Their ships are rated as the best of all river cruise ships by Berlitz.  It is a company that uses great technology but it never detracts from the vacation.  Almost every serious travel industry writer about river cruising, rates Ama very high—they often agree with our assessment that it is the best value for the price.  This is a family owned company and they strive to treat their guests as valued family.  Since 2009, after our first river cruise with Ama (we have been on 13 and are taking # 14 later this year), we have watched them grow better each year—there is a constant effort to enhance the guest experience. 

The Ama Ice Cream Lady
Homemade Ice Cream is served at Lunch–what a treat!

Clearly, the three owners of the company are hands on, innovative and inspire all of the company members to perform at max levels.  The quality of the vacations they offer, coupled with superb food and wine, served by waiters who become your friends, sets them apart in my opinion.  All the pictures are of the staff–the stars of the cruise who make your vacation special.  Look at the 7 characteristics list again—do you think they meet the mark of a high performing organization?  I wholeheartedly do!

 

2014 Reception
Key Crew of the AmaDagio 2014. In front from left to right Cruise Director Kris, Hotel Manager Andras, and Captain Danny. In the background, bartenders Tomas and Peter.

My Final Thoughts

I think most folks want to be part of a high performing organization.  You can be part of one, if you select AmaWaterways as the company to provide you your river cruise vacation.  Please, reach out to us with your river cruise ideas!  Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

 

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