Monday, January 31, 2011

Spring Semester 2011, Part II

I decided to go with the paper on the Arctic issue. I think it brings up a more interesting question. The base of the OPC question is really just a resource allocation question...if we had enough money to do this, should we? Yes. We don't, so what are our spending priorities?

The Arctic question has the resource allocation aspect, but also has a lot of other dimensions to it. So it might be a harder paper to write, but I'll likely learn more from it.

And, and, AND!!! In my Info Policy and Technology class, I've got the **coolest** assignment! One of the discussions today was about "technology determinism" v. "enactment." The basic premise is that many times technology is used to determine an outcome...changing the technology will change the behavior of the people/institution. Enactment, though, indicates that most organizations have a certain way of doing things, and injection of technology will not substantively change those methods.

So, this sounded to me just like trying to implement ALMIS -> LIMS in surface forces, and the desired shift in attitudes about surface force maintenance decisions as we deal with aging assets. I brought it up in class, and then talked some more with the professor about it during break. (Side note: Chris' take on the Coast Guard, made to the class as a whole after I got done with my little revelation:  "the Coast Guard has a disproportionate number of people who 'get it.'" How cool is *that*?! I love it when people outside the organization recognize my shipmates as being particularly smart, hardworking and dedicated, good at what they do and well-deserving of all the good things said about them.)

I mentioned that I wanted to clarify, for myself mostly, but also so I can explain it to other people, what the cultural obstacles are to the desired outcome from the implementation of new technology. As I tried to explain it, the aviation community kinda grew up with an ALMIS-type system, though I'm sure it wasn't called that from the start...but they've always had thorough pre-flight checklists. If anything on those checklists isn't a positive indication for flight, the flight isn't done with that airframe. The surface community is still operating under 200 years plus of maritime tradition of we have to go out, but we don't have to come back. And I know, I KNOW, that does not paint the whole picture and is changing, thank goodness. But it was the easiest (fastest, simplest to understand) way to encapsulate the attitude differences for a non-Coastie crowd. I think the surface culture issue is actually more about the scope of the Commanding Officer's responsibility than the dominance of the mission at least for cutters. And I think small boats have another, different set of complexities, which only makes it more complicated. But I didn't really have time to get into all of that in class.

Chris suggested that I make this my individual project for the class!! That's what I'm so excited about. Sure, sure, there's the whole great thing about getting class credit for doing something that I wanted to do anyway, but I'm more excited about the anticipated feedback, interaction and jeez, general help from him and the class as a whole for making my end product better. If I can explain the jumbled mess in my head about the different cultures for a group of people that don't know much about the Coast Guard, it may help to quiet the background noise and really distill the issue.

So I'll be starting with the CORE PRIME, and making an initial presentation to the class in two or three weeks. Yay!! I like this semester *so much* better than last semester!


Karen said...

Core Prime looks like one of those rabbit trails the way its set up; however, it makes for really interesting reading. Sounds like a GREAT class. Hope you get lots of clarification of ideas out of it.

Azulao said...

Uh...sorry to be a dash of cold water, but what the hell are you talking about?

Perhaps this is the first of the clarifying questions from the decidedly non-Coast-Guard set!

Brilliant encapsulation of the culture, btw -- we have to go out, we don't have to get back. From what little I know of the maritime universe, this has been the case for oh, thousands of years.

Just a Girl said...

A, eek, that is pretty icy water, but I totally deserve it. I reread the post, and it does kinda jump in mid-stream. I think I may have done that somewhat on purpose, been a little obfuscatory to limit my exposure. Screw the universe.

There is a tension that exists between staying operationally viable (keeping your boat tied together with enough duct tape and baling twine...and belzona, to be able to go out and do the mission) and addressing long term maintenance issues that will keep the boat afloat in the years to come. If the ship is in drydock patching holes in the fuel tank or trying to find the bearing that's allowing oil to leak from its propellers, it can't be out saving lives, seizing drugs or escorting subs...or even training the crew to be better and safer at doing the mission. And as our ships get older, the balance starts to tip towards needing more and more of that dedicated maintenance. Otherwise, the crews (mostly engineers spending hours and hours of what should be liberty in the hole fixing stuff, but not always...six months in Waikiki with no kitchens and a 65 mile round-trip to the shipyard each day) and the mission both suffer.

Right now, the CG is working on how to best resolve the mission/maintenance paradox. The aviation model (ALMIS) being used is based on aviation culture. And there's a reason that there exists a gentle rivalry between aviators and cuttermen...we're DIFFERENT. The equipment, the structure, the physics. The cockpit and the bridge are very different places.

There's a great quote in Fountain's book: " is clear that the socialization of individuals means that new information technologies and their use in government will be perceived through standard lenses that will in many cases bias innovation in unanticipated ways to conform to existing structural and political arrangements."

I had to read it about 10 times before it finally sunk in, but she's basically saying that the "socialization," how people are brought up in an organization, will (in many cases) overpower any innovations attempted by new technologies.

I don't know if I cleared anything up for you, 'cause it's still a little muddled in my own head. I think the question I'm shooting for is, will CCC allow an aviation maintenance model (checklist equals go/no go call with no repercussions on CO/crew) to work? What do I need to change/rethink in my own cutterman consciousness to help the new system achieve its goals?

Azulao said...

Snork. Why do academics write like that? I don't mind having to read something ten times to get it if it's *legitimately* difficult, but having to wade through turgid prose annoys me.

Repeat after me: We have to come back. We have to come back. We have to come back. We have to come back.

And there ain't no ruby slippers. Changing cultures requires action from both the top and the bottom. Thad Allen's successor needs to agree that you have to come back so that YOU are evaluated appropriately so that you advance in your career for *protecting* your crew and ship, not endangering them. And *you* have to tell your engineers to quit at a reasonable time.

You and the maritime community also have to lobby Congress and whomever else for more funding.

Cultural changes only occur overnight when the benefits of doing so are so crystal clear that someone who doesn't change is steamrolled. You probably already know that tobacco plants changed from being seed-bedded to being hydroponic-bedded in less than 5 years because the new way of doing it was THAT good. Otoh, the university is unable to admit that in general our system of evaluating faculty sucks, because there is no *clear and compelling* advantage to changing it. Come up with a clear and compelling advantage that saves *everyone* a lot of money and you may have a chance.

Oh, ps, I think part of the reason I was confused is because you reversed an acronym in your post.

Just a Girl said...

Sorry about the mixed up acronym. And I do truly believe that the senior leadership of the Coast Guard gets it...especially with ADM Papp, the Golden Ancient Mariner as our Commandant! I think it's more middle and upper management, including me, that is struggling with exactly what it looks like.