Sunday, February 20, 2011

The CORE PRIME Applied - Feedback

My presentation for class went pretty well last week. I got some very useful feedback from last week's post, as well as the discussion in class.

First, from my Mom...there were some things in the post that she didn't quite get:
--"stand up of Surface Forces Logistic Command (SFLC)"  What do you mean by "stand up of..."?
SFLC is a department within the newly formed Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS) that provides support for surface forces (small boats and opposed to Aviation Logistics Command (ALC)). SFLC "stood up," or became operational, in fall of 2009, and changed the chain of command for how logistics support, including depot-level maintenance, engineering support (fixing stuff that's broke and making sure stuff doesn't break), parts supplies and technical support, works for small boat stations and cutters. There's a powerpoint presentation here, if you're interested in more details.

--CG-LIMS, AOPS/TMT, CMPLUS,  ALMIS   Acronyms drive me crazy--what do they stand for?
Well, in this particular case, they're all different IT programs that the CG is using, or plans to use for various logistics, operations, training and maintenance functions. But if you really want to know the specifics:
CG-LIMS: Coast Guard Logistics Information Management System
AOPS/TMT: Abstract of Operations/Training Management Tool
CMPLUS: Configuration Management Plus

ALMIS: Aviation Logistics Management Information System
I admit to sometimes overusing acronyms just because they sound so ridiculous all piled together like worms tangled up in a vermicomposting worm bin.

--The push/pull of the different parts.
This is straight from the STAKE PRIME: "Powerful STAKE conversations must have negative aspects (what to avoid or PUSH away from) and positive aspects (what people desire and want to PULL toward them). "

CAPT Dan Taylor (CG-9443, CG-LIMS Project Manager) very graciously shared with me the results from a survey his office conducted on ALMIS field users (since I don't have CG-Portal access). (And I have to say, that the CG-LIMS project is one of the most open and, dare I say it, transparent ventures I've seen in the Coast Guard (ya' know-in my vast and extensive experience :)); they actively seek out input and feedback from anybody and everybody that has something to say!) But it was interesting to see the range of responses to the training provided and use of the program itself. Some of the ones that spoke most to what I'm looking at include:
--"Make sure the benefits of changing to LIMS is addressed first.  Most people do not understand why we are changing ALMIS.  I understand, but only because of my past experience." This one is about the importance of the STAKE. And, I think, general resistance to change. If people understand *why* we're changing ALMIS, they have a better chance of buying into the new process...but one of the main points of this Information Policy & Technology class is that there's still a lot more that goes into the process of organizational acceptance.

--"Better suited program for WPB's. WPB Engineers are still required to maintain administrative systems as before, and are now required to maintain ALMIS. WPB's have not been released from maintaining all logs that were supposed to go away once "Modernized". In short, have the policy in place before "Modernizing" WPB's, so the instructor staff can correctly answer WPB questions, I am still waiting for a message releasing the WPB engineering requirements." I'm not entirely sure if this comment addresses two issues, or if it's all about the duplication of effort required by using ALMIS as a stop-gap until CG-LIMS comes online. The second issue could be about training--not sure. But it's definitely the fact that EPOs still have to maintain the same administrative system as before modernization that caught my eye on this one.

--"They are giving training on a program that is not built for cutters! The only good thing about ALMIS is that I now get my parts in a reasonable amount of time." Do we just want our own system to feel important/special? Just kidding :) But this one does bring up the possibility that  modernization could end up just being a new way to order/get parts, instead of the holistic logistics program it is intended to be. ("Holistic logistics"--smirk)

--"Avoid the change of acronyms. Small boat stations have different "language" than IT talk. A boat is B-0 (fully operational).. not FMC. A boat being in C (charlie, meaning that it is not operational)...not NMCM." OMG--right?! I hadn't ever thought about this one before, but helos are FMC (fully mission capable) or NMC (not mission capable) and small boats/cutters are A (underway), B (fully operational at the pier) or C (in a maintenance status).

But I got the most troubling/thought-provoking feedback from the discussion in class. I started my presentation with my understanding of the ENVIRONMENT, since that, to me, is the catalyst that started all this discussion of transformation/modernization. I talked about how the Coast Guard's assets are aging and how they had a couple of bad years with financial audits. And then went on to outline how modernization is supposed to help them deal with the dueling demands of Coast Guard's mission creep, aging assets and limited resources. 'Long about here, Chris stopped me to point out my use of pronouns. I was saying "the Coast Guard" and "they" a lot (which is interesting, because in my post, I seem to be much better about using "us" and "our"). But his point was that, without that instinctual buy-in to the change process from the end users, the change was likely to fail.

Feel the kick in the

When I talked about the differences in aviation and cutter culture, I made statements like: "Ships and aircraft are different" and "we don't think like they do." Chris stopped me again to ask the class if what I was saying was a FACT, STORY or BELIEF (referencing the PRIME). I readily admitted that they were BELIEFS. But what does that mean? The PRIME says, "When BELIEFS are discussed deliberately and openly, they lose their hold on the group. Once BELIEFS are revealed, the group will naturally engage in a more productive discussion about FACTS and STORIES." And I guess that's what all this mental yoga is about...exploring the BELIEFS, so that I can understand their relationship to the FACTS. STORIES...well, it's all just sea stories until I've got a positive contribution to make.

I went on to discuss the issue of control. How cuttermen are all *about* control; we like to control our parts because we don't trust the system to get our parts to us otherwise...that damn fuel injector bolt that I waited on for nearly five days while being bashed against the state pier in Hilo after the tsunami, came immediately to mind. We like our control because we are judged on our ability to do the mission; if we can't do the mission because we're broke, we're pretty much useless, and the more we're useless, the less we have to put in our OERs (among other reasons for why being broke sucks). While I hesitate to mention OER fodder because I run the risk of sounding like just another self-serving O, OERs are How We Are JUDGED. Our futures depend on them. Our careers depend on them. And while a good leader doesn't lead with thoughts of what to put in hir OER, s/he also doesn't disregard the reality of the OER's importance. Sorry, rant over. But the OER issue is another BELIEF that is pretty pivotal to the discussion.

But the mention of evaluations and rankings in class raised the discussion of competition between units (and COs). Once the system is fully transparent (all the parts that every unit has is visible through the system), why would one operational unit give up one of their parts to another operational unit that is broken and needs that part? Chris didn't like my answer, "that's what shipmates do"...he was a little more cynical, and said, no, they don't give it up, because they know they might need it before they can get a replacement. So they keep it, and develop a second set of books to track what parts they really do have on hand, as opposed to what CG-LIMS says they have.

Second kick in the Oof, what a dismal picture. It actually made me feel a little googly in the gut. Nervous and sweaty, a touch nauseous, with the beginnings of a tension headache.

So I had to ask...what can I do to help prevent this apocalyptic future of CG-LIMS? Chris's first recommendation was to change my language...from "they" and "their," to "us" and "ours."

I admit to having some trouble transforming that concept into an actual course of action. I recognize that CG-LIMS is the future, my Coast Guard's future. But it feels a little presumptuous to assume that I have the requisite experience or technical knowledge to really have much useful to contribute to the effort. I spent some time this morning reading over the CG-LIMS wiki, especially the REBOOT Final Report. Mom, if you thought I use too much technical jargon and acronyms, take a look at these, and see if you can get through, I don't know, the Executive Summary without feeling like a complete dolt. I couldn't. But I persevered, and kinda just skimmed over the parts that were tech-speak, or acquisition-speak.

Side note: I'm not sure that there's a more impenetrable language than the combination of IT systems and federal acquisition. Each separately is inscrutable enough...put them together and you've got something as opaque as mud. Thick, post-spring rainstorm mud. But, no rain, no rainbows...and thank goodness we've got people that understand both IT and acquisitions to work through the necessary details.

I guess what I plan to do is to keep exploring these BELIEFS about cutter culture. I don't think that I'm being a LAGGARD (though it is entirely possible), but someone else shared some similar concern on the CG-LIMS wiki here, so there's probably still some room for discussion. There is definitely a good portion of having to TRUST THE UNIVERSE that's at work here for me. But, I'd rather get in trouble for doing something than get in trouble for not doing anything.


Liomoana said...

Thanks for the clarifications. More when I've had time to think about what I just read.

Peter J. Marr said...

My son was in the Coast Guard and this article really helps me better understand some of the things he was talking about.

Just a Girl said...

I'm glad I was able to provide clarification, instead of muddying the waters further. It's always a little challenging to write to an unknown audience, not knowing how well-versed readers are in CG-lingo. I'm sure some people get annoyed with how basically I break things down, while others are still somewhat befuddled by unknown terminology. Helps keep me honest, though.