Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adjustment Mosaic

I'm still in the adjustment period of the new job. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Pretty much everyone I've talked to about being a Program Reviewer has told me that it takes up to a year before you really feel like you know what's going on.


For someone who doesn't like not knowing what's going on, having the sand shift under her feet with every step, and hates feeling stupid, that sounds like *forever!!*

There have been missteps: kinda embarrassing when the Deputy had to show me how to submit an e-chit for leave authorization (yes, I've already taken my first day of leave...today in fact. I had to be home to receive the shipment of Mom's stuff. And let me say, today has been *ree-*dic*ulously* productive. Got the furniture, cleaned the house, had the plumber come to unstop the tub from draining slowly and fix the toilet so it's not wobbly anymore, *installed the kitchen cabinet hardware!!,* baked pumpkin bread (and mmm, it's good), fixed a piece of furniture that didn't quite make it through the move whole, paid some bills, and (finally) wrote a blog post. I'm thinking one week-day off a month is going to be a necessity from now on.). And I hadn't paid close enough attention to the process for reviewing Qs (informal questions submitted by outside interests), so a response went out that wasn't exactly what was approved, and then because I still didn't understand the process, one went out about three days later than it needed to...after the Deputy sent an email saying that we needed to make sure our Programs submitted their responses in a timely manner in order to meet the deadlines, especially in this critical time of congressional review of our budget. Whoops.

I'm trying to just take it all in. I've had some modest insights so far...and they are randomly offered here as my adjustment mosaic:
--there is no right way to be a Reviewer. There are definitely traits that encourage success, like knowledge (process, political structure, technical...), critical thinking, assertiveness, good time management, written and spoken communication skills, and general nosiness. But how those qualities all mix up and are expressed is not writ in stone. So just because my cell-...I mean, office-mate is gregarious and quick-witted, doesn't mean that I will not be a good Reviewer just because I am definitely *not* either of those things. I must play to my own strengths and not try to be something I'm not.

--What I don't want to be is cynical. Yet what I likely am is naive, somewhat sanctimonious, and idealistic. But I *chose* to go to 821...sure, I had to be accepted there, but I asked for it. Kinda been working my way towards it since my CO put it on my OER back in 2007. The intervening years only made it make more sense in my head that this was where I wanted to be. Is it going to be hard work and long hours (including numerous and stupidly boring meetings)? Of course. And I don't mind, because it's also going to be an opportunity to influence the future of the organization. But I don't want to be cynical about the pathological dedication that a lot of people in the building have to working exactly and only business hours, or that the place turns into a ghost town at 4:01 pm. I don't want to be cynical that, right or wrong, people may blame me personally for the fact that their budget isn't as robust as they would like. I don't want to be cynical about the malaise that seems to infect so many issues at Headquarters so that simple processes turn into absurdly time-consuming slogs through endless backs-and-forths because no one wants to commit to a decision. And I don't want to be cynical that manuals make it through high levels of review but still contain numerous and egregious typos when they hit my desk for review. Sadly, just from my descriptions, it seems like I'm losing the battle. I must not forget why I'm there.

--Weird to have two references to said CO in the same post (didn't really care to work for him, and going through the process of him getting fired pretty much sucked...however I have to acknowledge what I learned from him) and I'm not sure how it really relates to the new job, but he always said, "you don't know what you don't know." For some reason that statement reminds me of Kathryn Schulz's TED talk about being wrong. I keep coming back to this talk, and watching again...*def* recommend it. One of her first points is that being wrong feels just like being right, until you know you're wrong...like Wiley E. Coyote when he runs of the cliff chasing the Roadrunner. He's fine until he realizes he's in mid-air. Then she says, [culturally, we think] "people who get stuff wrong are lazy, irresponsible dimwits...and the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes." Followed by, "This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to and causes us to treat each other terribly." Maybe it's just something that I need to keep in mind throughout my discussions (especially the contentious ones) with people. I don't know everything, neither do they, but somehow we've got to come up with the best resolution. And the best way to do that might just be to realize that I'm not always right.

--"Trust but verify." I don't remember where I first heard this phrase, but it has since become a constant theme throughout my career. In this job, however, it's taking on a slightly different flavor. It's more just "Verify!" Or "Question Everything:" where did that data come from? how was it collected? what are its biases? is it complete? who collected it? why was it collected? is there a better source of information? is it an average? what was left out? Maybe that's why I've been thinking about the stuff from that last paragraph lately...I don't always know what to ask...I don't know what I don't know, and I'm having to work through asking *everything* just to figure out what I need to ask.

Huh, I guess that's why I like writing this blog...it helps me to make sense of the white noise in my head, realize connections that I didn't recognize were there.

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