Friday, November 18, 2011

Program Reviewer Philosophy

I posted my Command Philosophy a while back. I wrote the first draft of that philosophy almost ten years ago, when I was in Prospective Commanding Officer / Executive Officer (PCO/PXO) School before heading to be XO of WASHINGTON (the school requires both PCOs and PXOs to write one). It got dusted off and updated when I went to MAUI, and again before KISKA. But really those were just refinements, changes to reflect the different operating areas. It gives me some sense of peace that the underlying ideas didn't maybe I really *do* have a coherent philosophy, or set of core sensibilities that help guide me through all types of situations.

Now I'm going into a job for which I feel very ill-prepared, a little overwhelmed and a lot nervous. It's been since I first reported to BOUTWELL that I was facing a new set of responsibilities so far outside of my comfort zone. I feel the need to consider a set of principles, maybe rules of engagement for being a Program Reviewer. Since I'm familiar with the Command Philosophy concept, I'm going to call it my Program Reviewer Philosophy. As I first started thinking about this idea, it felt awkward, like I should have some experience in the job before having the hubris to assume that I knew what I was doing. Then I remembered that, as I wrote my initial Command Philosophy, I didn't know what I was doing then either...I had never been an XO, I just had a general sense of what I was getting myself into, and I wrote it kinda blindly. It worked out okay then.

A Command Philosophy is typically published to the entire crew, posted in main pass, and discussed with officers, chiefs and Department Heads. I've even had supervisors ask me for a copy so they know more about where I'm coming from with leadership decisions. But as of right now, I'm not really sure how broadly I'll share this once I get to the office. From my understanding, there are three general groups of people I'll be working with: my supervisors, my peers and my Program peeps (is that too impertinent?). I guess it depends on my reasons for developing it in the first place. I see this as something that I'll hang prominently on the bulkhead in my cubicle, so that as I sit in front of my computer screen, my eyes will not fail to miss it, and I am constantly reminded of why this is important to me, what my priorities should be and how I should conduct myself even when the pressure is on high. A self-accountability tool, if you will.

My Philosophy

…is that the Coast Guard as an institution is important to me. I joined the Coast Guard to perform great and worthy, heroic and patriotic duties, for the sea stories I get to tell my family and friends, and to do things that not many other people get to do. Those experiences, the people I've worked beside, and the opportunities yet to present themselves make the Coast Guard an organization that I want to fight for.
…is that a job worth doing is worth doing to the best of my ability. At the end of my tour, I intend to look back and be able to honestly tell myself that I faced every task and challenge to the best of my ability. This is the only way the sacrifices I have made will have been worthwhile.

My Guiding Principles
  • One Team, One Fight: We are all on the same side, even when individual programs are facing budget cuts and high priorities conflict. A deep and abiding respect for all my shipmates will remind me to look beyond any moments of contention and focus on the larger goal of taking care of the Coast Guard. 
  • Innovative Solutions and Systems Thinking: We function in an increasingly complex and networked world. "That's the way we've always done it" begs for a closer look. A passion for understanding expanded scopes of influence and underlying dynamic processes will allow for development of better, more creative options that offer effective long-term solutions instead of unconsidered tinkerings. 
  • Checking the Unengaged Side of the Ship: Just as the XO stands on the unengaged bridge-wing to check for any unanticipated hazards, a constant awareness of the bigger picture into which my small portion fits is necessary to ensure the overall positive contribution of what I am doing. Thorough analysis, based on sound data and process-based logic, is a critical risk mitigation strategy that will enable solid recommendations to percolate through the noise.
Critical Skills
  • Communication: I must be able to respect my shipmates enough to LISTEN to them and take the time to understand what they are saying to me, rather than hearing what I think they should be telling me. I must also be able to clearly and concisely present my own well-articulated arguments to reduce confusion and not waste anybody's time. Success depends on my ability to take in and disseminate information.
  • Acceptance of Risk: Times are changing too fast and too dramatically to allow process calcification to paralyze our ability to respond. New ways of doing things will not always work and sometimes my suggestions will fail, but I must have the courage to confidently promote innovation in pursuit of improvement. 
  • Acceptance of Consequences: When my ideas and actions do not stand up to the high standard of effective implementation, I must have enough personal resilience to withstand the fall-out. I protect myself against any cataclysmic negativity by relying on my Guiding Principles.
Questions to Ask...Every Time
  • Am I focusing my listening on the intended message? Am I saying what I mean to say, as concisely and clearly as possible?
  • What impact does this option or decision have on:
    • Crews in the field? Support staff manning the Help Desk?
    • Organizational ability to execute the mission?
    • Long-term asset health and resource availability?
  • Where is my ego in this?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Orders....Or, The Next Challenge

This transfer season has been more tumultuous than any other I've been through. The only other one that might be even somewhat comparable was when I was leaving HAMILTON. I had successfully screened for command, and asked for nuthin but 110s. I was cocky enough to think that it was just a matter of which one I would get.

It was about a week or ten days before Christmas. Suppo and I had left the boat right when liberty was piped to go shopping for a Christmas wine and cheese party I was hosting. We stopped by the L&L Hawaiian Drive-In just outside the 32nd St Gate of NAVSTA San Diego to get some lunch to sustain us. I ordered the kalbi rib lunch plate (with rice and mac salad). I had grease and teriyaki sauce all over my face and hands when my phone rang. It was a 202 area code...during transfer season, that only means one thing--the detailer.

Breathe, Charlotte, remember to BREATHE.

I (somewhat) calmly wiped my hands so I could answer the phone, chatted with the Assignment Officer/detailer (AO) for a few minutes, long enough for him to tell me I was going to MAUI. I had enough wits remaining about me to thank him for the call. I hung up. And then almost hyperventilated. I don't think I stopped saying omg for about two days. Suppo was very patient with me that afternoon.

This year my e-resume was due mid-August, I think, because I was putting in for a Special Assignment, as a Program Reviewer at CG-821. I duly submitted my wish-list, and then really didn't think much more about it. I knew I was going somewhere at HQ, so why fret about the details (anybody that knows me, knows that is a *flat-out* lie...of course I worried about it!!). All there was to do was wait.

Then the AO called me the first time. I spent a couple of days shaking my head in wonderment that a) he offered the opportunity and b) I turned it down.

Then he called back about a week later (at this point, I was starting to recognize his phone number on caller ID...kinda a weird feeling). He asked me if I was interested in putting in for a high-profile Aide job. Ok, so when the AO calls you *TWICE* to push special assignments, you don't say "no" a second time. I said yes, and started a crazy roller-coaster ride that ended this week with PCS orders for my payback tour.

As the AO explained the process to me, my file would be forwarded to the appropriate office and they would be in touch about an interview if  they were interested. He made it sound like the turn-around time was going to be pretty fast. Somehow, I think our definitions of "pretty fast" were slightly divergent. To me, "pretty fast" should mean, I don't know, maybe two or three days. So four days went by, then a week went by, and I still hadn't heard anything. I started telling myself that the office wasn't interested in me, my record wasn't good enough, I should have known better than to expect an interview, the whole thing was so far-fetched anyway. Sadly, I let myself get pretty down about it.

In the interim, the Deputy at CG-82 contacted me, requesting I call him for a phone interview. I phoned him back the next day, and we chatted for about 25 minutes. He asked a little about me, but also spent plenty of time making sure I knew what the Program Reviewer job was all about. He was very forthright about the pressures of the job, lots of responsibility and long hours. He gave me the names of a couple of people currently in the office, and encouraged me to talk with them about what they do.

But then, a couple of Tuesdays ago, I got an email. The subject line read: "Interview for ______ Aide." The first line: "Congratulations..." I called my sister. I called my friend who had been an Aide. I think I might have even shouted it from the rooftops. I could barely contain my excitement.

I actually prepped for this interview. I talked to my friend to get her perspective on being an Aide, about what kinds of questions they might ask, about what kinds of answers might be appropriate. I really appreciate her patience with my ignorance and naivete...I'm not sure it would have occurred to me that my involvement in UCMJ proceedings weren't appropriate and contributory topics of conversation for an interview. And she was honest enough to advise me that I needed to be upfront with the interviewers about the Aide's job is to make sure there are no surprises, so showing up the first day of a high-visibility job with a full sleeve tattoo the bosses didn't know about kinda sets a Girl up for failure. With that in mind, I went into the interview with a somewhat fatalistic attitude of presenting my best effort, to hell with the results.

The interview was last Tuesday. I was nervous! I arranged to use a landline at the School of Public Policy so that I wouldn't have to worry about the call being dropped by my cell carrier. I dressed professionally to give myself some confidence and remind my self to maintain my professional persona (no cussing allowed!). I wrote out key points to questions I thought they might ask so I wouldn't stumble (as much) over my answers. And I wondered how I went from not even knowing I wanted this job to it really, really mattering to me.

The interview was scheduled for 1600. About 20 minutes beforehand, the current Aide called me to tell me they were running behind, some things had come up; would I be able to move the call to 1700? Umm, of course, no problem. And then I (tried to) read some of the articles assigned for class the next day. It was a little anti-climatic. But 1700 finally ticked around on the clock, and I made the call.

I thought the interview went very well. The interview panel asked me some of the questions I thought they might, but then come up with a few others that I wasn't expecting. I was able to put together cogent responses to all of them. One made me nearly choke up: the CAPT asked what my crew would have said my Command Philosophy was. I told them about the BM2 that, as he left MAUI, told me he really appreciated how I stuck to my Philosophy, relating events back and referring to it on a regular basis. Made me miss my crews! And then they asked what was the one single scariest moment I had faced underway--that would have been playing chicken with a 650-foot container ship, speeding 18 knots straight at the oil platforms, and crossing his bow at about 400 yards to try to turn him away from the security zone. The crew responded so fantastically to that situation , and were totally ready to react to the threat if had fully manifested.

At the end of the interview, the panel told me that I should hear something by the end of the next week. Ugh!! I HATE waiting.

Turns out I didn't have to wait nearly that long. When I got home from class the next day, I had an email from the Deputy at CG-82 asking me to call him. I called him first thing the next morning; he told me I was on the short list for Program Reviewer but he wanted to check with me to see if I was still interested and make sure I had the opportunity to talk with someone in the job. We made arrangements for me to visit the office the next day (I was headed to HQ for something else already).

I'm glad I went to visit CG-82. I met both the Deputy and the CAPT. The Deputy talked about how much responsibility the Program Reviewer had, both in terms of the budget and some aspects of policy for their programs. Millions of dollars, the last check to make sure messages are consistent, briefing ADMs going to testify before Congress...very high-powered stuff. Yup, it kinda intimidated me, and I told him that. He looked at me a little quizzically, and asked, weren't you CO of a ship? Yeah, but somehow it just seems different. The consequences of mistakes just seem so much more daunting. But as those words were coming out of my mouth, I realized just how inconsistent they were. As CO, peoples' *lives* are in your hands, millions of dollars of assets and equipment are at stake. What's the difference between the levels of responsibilities again? I guess after two years as CO, that mantle of responsibility finally settled more comfortably on my shoulders.

Later that evening, my phone rang again...202 area code (it's not quite so nerve-wracking now that I live in the DC area, but still gives me pause). It was the AO telling me if I was still interested in the Program Reviewer job, he was ready to pencil me in for it. I asked about the Aide job; he said while the interview panel liked me, there were other candidates they were considering.

Well, hell.

Once again, I had the wherewithal to thank the AO for his call and tell him I was still interested in the Program Reviewer job. And then I started to sulk. Just a little bit, and not for long. But I had already had kind of a crappy day. Frustrations with the dry cleaner (four visits required to get O4 stripes on my Bravo jacket), losing the battle with the weedeater (thankfully there were no injuries involved and I eventually won the war...the next day), not working out or eating particularly well lately...all conspired to put the AO's call in the worst possible light.

After gaining a small margin of perspective with the help of my sister and friends, I came to realize the Aide job would have been a poor fit for me. It *absolutely* would have been super-cool fun -- all the traveling, meeting some of the country's top leadership as well as all the Coasties at so many different units, getting the high-altitude big picture of the Coast Guard; and I would have done a perfectly acceptable job at it. But it just wasn't the right fit. It reminds me a little of my friend Rickey's attitude about campgrounds that didn't allow dogs. He had a *big* dog back in the day, and while it was sometimes frustrating for him to have to drive on down the road past those campgrounds, he always felt that rule probably kept him out of some places he wouldn't have been so welcome anyway. I'm only kinda saying that my tattoos are like Rickey's dog, keeping me out of places I have no reason to be anyway. They're only the physical manifestation of an individualism that I'm not ready to change, or obscure, or censor...but not flaunt or obnoxiously brandish about, either. I see lots of days wearing a woolly-pully in my future. I might even have to get one of the cardigans.

So, my orders are on the board for Program Reviewer at CG-821. I would be *LYING* if I said I wasn't nervous. I'm *very* nervous. Like, "how did I get myself into this mess"-nervous. But that feeling is a little familiar. I remember it from getting orders to HAMILTON as OPS and MAUI as CO, from staring into the face of a new challenge, something unfamiliar, something I haven't done before. I wrote about it when I was on MAUI. The next crop of crews was starting to come in, and one of the new COs went on a familiarization ride with us during post-drydock sea trials:
One of his questions was, how do you integrate into the crew that's already in place, not knowing all of the particulars of the do you lead without total confidence in yourself?
The funny thing is, he was actually able to articulate the question. I certainly felt the same way when I was getting ready to take over MAUI, but I wasn't so clear with myself why I was uncomfortable and uncertain. I hemmed and hawed for a moment, but then told him, "Fake it until you make it." It really was an attitude of bravado that got me through those first few weeks of wondering what the hell I was doing and why on earth anyone in a position of power would have ever though I was a good fit for the job. Eventually, I got more comfortable, mostly for two reasons, I think. First, I developed the knowledge the operational area and mission required; I studied tasking messages, did some of the specialty operations, and in general educated myself on what I was doing. Second, I just couldn't sustain the level of hypervigilance I adopted in those first few weeks. I was always on edge, always looking for the next thing that was coming along. I don't think I got complacent, necessarily, but something like it. Maybe I just grew into the leadership role.
I had a brief reminder of those first few days as we were returning from our shake-down trip yesterday. [One of our main diesel engines] failed, just [as we started our approach to the pier]. I took over driving us in. At one point, I looked at the situation and realized that I had absolutely no clue what I was doing...I'm just a wanna-be Farm Girl for god's sake, not some BAMF (as my room-mate calls me) war-fighter. How the *hell* was I gonna get us out of this mess?! I thought about it for a moment, and realized that I had no choice...there was no one else with us that I could turn the mess over to, and expect a better outcome than if I just did it myself, even with my extreeeeeeme discomfort with where we were at. I balled up, and faked it until we made it in.
And then took myself off to my office for a few minutes to physically stop my hands from shaking. But, if you can spare me a moment of egotism, I did an awesome!!! job getting us safely home. It was graceful and it looked good. I really did look like I knew what I was doing.
Ha ha ha ha ha ahahahaaa. That's the funny part!
But isn't that what this life is all about...facing the next challenge, stretching myself to discover if limits exist?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Treasures Unearthed

The weather-proofing guys are scheduled to come on 2 December. And for some reason (probably because I'm a tightwad), I said I would make sure the spaces were cleaned up and ready for the crew. This means two things, really: I have to remove all the deck boards and roof cardboard lining in the attic and I have to clean out the crawl space. As Drew of DRO Enterprises, the company doing the work, said, the only thing left down there should be dirt and the sump pump.

So last night I resolved that today would be the day I would get down into the crawlspace. I had a plan in mind: coveralls and watch cap to keep the creepy-crawlies out of my hair and clothes, headlamp and hanging work lamp to illuminate all the spooky corners, an old laundry basket to load up rubbish from the far corners of the space, and early in the morning before it got too warm so that all the bugs, spiders, and other heeby-jeeby-making critters were still sluggish and not tempted to mess with me. And gloves.

It was pretty icky. Wet and muddy, cobwebs all in my face. I also realized that the electrical situation down there is downright scary; some wires are extremely corroded--I'm hoping these are not the hot wires. But I'd really like to get an electrician to check it out and clean it up before it all gets sealed in by the weatherproofing guys. Any of my DC-area readers have a recommendation for a good electrician?

Besides the scary electric set up, there were rotten boards, pieces of bricks and cement blocks, rusted pieces of mystery metal, an entire roll of the paper that goes on a roof underneath the asphalt shingles (the top few layers were disintegrated), pipe scraps...and these bottles:

There are four gallon jugs (one with the original cork still in it), a half gallon jug, a quart bottle and then all the other random glass pieces. I particularly like the little spice jar (bottom left) that has it's cork. And the Shaefer's beer can...I know it's not glass, but it was just too classic to put in the garbage. The square bottle (front and center) is pretty cool too.

I'll clean them up over the next few weeks (it's a good project for taking on between reading articles for class). The house was built in 1936, so who knows how long they've been down there. But finding these cool surprises definitely made a gross chore a little more of a treasure hunt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shipyard Conflict, Part II

At the end of the last post, I had just figured out the more specific Goals/Objectives (Q3 in the Circle Chart) to meet the overall goal of getting the ship working again.

"Options: Actions that address the issue:" Q4 in the Circle Chart asks for action steps to address each of the specific goals from Q3. I think I have to reorder the goals for this part to be most effective.

--Scope of the misalignment: Determine the scope of the misalignment
  • Measure the gaps between the shaft and the bearings with spacers (I know that's not the right term, but I can't remember what the tool was called), performed by shipyard personnel
  • Measure the gaps with lasers, performed by subcontractor/specialist
What actually happened: We did both, chewing up about three days arguing about whether the shipyard's measurements were accurate enough (shipyard said yes, CG said no), and then arguing about the necessity for the laser measurements. Thankfully the specialist was able to come out the night after the decision was made to hire him.

--Old ship: Make her work again
  • Attach the shafts and run the ship without further intervention
  • Attempt to move the engine blocks sufficiently to get the shafts to align; this option would not require the ship to be re-drydocked
  • Re-drydock the ship and methodically realign the shafts starting where they attach to the engines
What actually happened: Once we knew the scope of the problem, the only acceptable course of action was to re-drydock the ship. It took about two weeks. Most of the work was done at night so that the workers could see the lasers better. MKC and other engineers went to working more of a third shift, starting at about 2200, and staying until about 0300. And then came back in to the office about 1000 to contribute to the day work efforts.

--Poor comms: Improved comms between the CG and contractor
  • Have a face-to-face meeting to discuss each sides' interests
  • Ensure work item specifications are clearly written and not missing critical steps
  • Commit to having all relevant parties (KO, PE, VP and maybe even shipyard President) attend the weekly progress meetings
What actually happened: Well, we had the meeting...remember, that was the one where I lost my composure and yelled at the President. Yeah, that went well. I think the most useful action item here would have been to make sure that everyone that needed to be at the weekly progress meetings were actually there. Lots of times, it was only MKC, me or XO and the shipyard Project Manager at the meeting. That's nothing against the KO or PE, I know they were busy, busy, but the more contentious the issues got, the more important it was to have decision makers in the same room.

--Distrust: Improved working relationship between the ship and contractor
  • Review contractor's past performance to either substantiate or negate the feeling that the contractor "always" did bad work at a higher cost
  • Step to their side: try to see things from the other sides' point of view
What actually happened: This was mostly *my* issue. When I was XO on WASHINGTON, we went into drydock in the other shipyard on the island, and I didn't have a good experience there either. I always felt like they were trying to put one over on us, cutting corners and mismanaging work lists which caused us to be delayed getting out by about 10 days. I had heard horror stories from other ships about their experiences also. All of that wrapped up in my head to paint a really bad picture. But when I went back and looked at the lessons learned from all of those availabilities, the data just wasn't there to support that the contractors were "always" late and "always" over cost.

--Poorly written specs: Provide better guidance to contractor
  • Be particularly careful and specific with the specs for the re-drydocking/re-alignment effort 
  • Submit feedback to SFLC/PBPL on each of the specs we used to improve their spec templates
What actually happened: I think we did both of these.

--Scare resources (both CG and shipyard): Determine best value of contract, both in terms of time and money
  • Each party commit to responding quickly to the other side's proposals; make resolution of this issue a priority
  • Mutually agree to goal of fixing the ship for the long term
What actually happened: This is a tough one. I feel like I'm being very partisan with determining action items here, looking only at it from the ship's point of view. In the end, I don't remember how much we paid for the re-alignment fix. It's probably somewhere in the database.

--Crew fatigue: Get the ship working quickly...actually, I think this should be "give the crew some respite"
  • Maximize time off for crew while ensuring necessary personnel are onboard the ship
  • Manage the worklists to allow crew to rotate home for a few days
  • Have a morale day
What actually happened: XO did a great job of getting people back to the Big Island, at least for a couple of days at a time. I think we were all still fed up with Waikiki and the commute, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. I remember worrying about MKC, though, because his worklist wasn't getting any shorter, and he was on that crazy third shift schedule.

--Cause of mis-alignment: Determine responsibility for mis-alignment
  • Both parties acknowledge their own contribution to the situation
What actually happened: I think the only reason that this particular issue really mattered was to determine who should pay for the required repairs. But, really, both parties were responsible for the mess we were in...the CG's specs (in retrospect) were poorly written because they didn't require alignment measurements taken before the ship went on the blocks; upon realization of the amount of metal that had to be replaced, we didn't address the potential for the ship shifting on the blocks until it was much too late; the shipyard didn't recognize the risk either and didn't think to take steps to mitigate it. So, assigning blame just injects contention back into the situation.

Whew. Five more elements to go.

"Standards of legitimacy: Identify objective standards by issue; may include a fair process:" All the manuals and instructions make this one fairly easy in this case...there's guidance on nearly *everything* in the Coast Guard.
--Old ship: Naval Engineering Manual (NEM) is the easiest one to reference, though there are also CFRs (Code of Federal Regulations) and IMO (International Maritime Organization) requirements for making sure a ship is constructed and maintained safely
--Scope of mis-alignment: industry standards, NEM
--Poorly written specs: also industry standard
--Scare resources: government estimates for cost of work items, contractor estimates, what other contractors charge for same work
--Crew fatigue: Cutter Employment Standards, DAFHP/perstempo standards
--Poor comms: the contract itself specified the standard for weekly progress meetings
--Distrust: previous contractor performance, contractor performance throughout the country
--Cause of mis-alignment: umm, basic theories of physics?

"Alternatives: list alternatives and check 'best alternative to a negotiated agreement' (BATNA):"
--Party #1 / KISKA

  • Run the ship without repairs -- BAD, BAD, BAD
  • Let the negotiations run their course and have current contractor make repairs; document, document, document the contractor's performance for consideration in future contract awards
  • Tug the ship over to the other shipyard on the island and have them make the repairs
  • Tug the ship back to the CG base in Honolulu, hire own alignment specialist and sue the pants off the shipyard for breach of contract -- This is probably the ship's BATNA, but it's a fairly weak one because the ship's case against the contractor is mostly circumstantial
--Party #2 / Shipyard
  • Just wait it out...the CG needs their ship back; they'll pay up eventually -- This is probably the contractor's BATNA...and a pretty good one, dag-na-bit!
  • Sue the government for breach of contract
--How is it today? Going in to that meeting, pretty bad - at least from my perspective. I didn't like them, they didn't like me. 

--How should it be? At the very least, professional, with some level of respect on both sides.

--What steps can we take to get there, starting today? First, I needed to let go some of my antipathy towards them as contractors in general, and crooks in particular. But they also needed to recognize us as professionals, instead of just a government cash cow who they knew they could squeeze more money out of. 

"Communication: Problems and Opportunities:"
--What information is lacking or not sufficiently understood? Initially, the big unknown was the scope of the bad was it? Once we answered that, the question was, how long would it take to fix it?

--What information would I like the other party to know? The consequences of running the ship with mis-aligned shafts...I mean, worst case scenario, the shafts vibrate badly enough to ruin the bearings, struts and housings (again, not sure if that's the right term), causing the engine room to flood.

--Am I listening to and hearing what the other party is saying and does s/he understand that I am listening? Nope, not happening. You mean, I'm really supposed to listen that line of crap that we should just  put the shafts in and run the ship...*hopefully* it will work?!? He totally lost my attention there, to a fog of frustration, anger and helplessness.

"Commitment: what agreement do I want at this negotiation session and in the long run?"
--Define the agreement sought at the end of this negotiating session (e.g., define issues, establish the process for negotiating an agreement, a detailed list of action items - what parties will or will not do, next meeting date and agenda): If I were doing this exercise before that fateful meeting, I think I would have wanted a definitive plan of action made up of aggressive steps to fix the problem. The most useful thing that could have happened at that meeting would have been agreement on the "cause of mis-alignment" issue--that both parties contributed to the problem, instead of each side posturing that they were faultless, blaming the other side. Jeez, that was *such* a waste of time!

--What are the elements of a long-term agreement? Decision on a work item, including how to fix the alignment, how long it would likely take, and how much it would cost.

--Can the parties perform the terms of the agreement? The shipyard needed a sub-contractor to do the laser alignment and the CG's ability to pay for the repairs was in question, it being the end of the fiscal year and all. But really, there were no other viable options for getting us out of there.

--Does the agreement cover the significant issue? In the end, yes, we came to resolution. But it definitely could have been done more quickly and with less contention.

--How will the parties handle problems as they arise during implementation of the agreement? Having a meeting with all the relevant parties involved. As I recall, once we got started, things went along fairly smoothly.

So, in the end, I've accomplished my goal of understanding the negotiation framework a little better by using a scenario with which I am familiar. I don't think I did an overwhelmingly good job of being non-partisan about my analysis, though. I just can't seem to get a good understanding of the contractor's perspective that makes any sense to me. Is being aware of that blind spot at least a start?

I didn't enter this exercise thinking that I was going to solve contractor/government relations for all times. It's definitely a work in progress, especially out in Hawaii. But the rumors I heard from over the summer make it sound like it's going in the right direction...for the government (maybe not so much for the contractor). Something about accountability and Contractor Deficiency Reports. I don't know. I do know that I am still holding on to a lot of frustration about the time KISKA spent in the shipyard. But that's probably a subject for another post. Or maybe not. Maybe I just need to let it go.