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 mis-alignment...how 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.

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