Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Good Job

Only been in the job for two months and things have already changed. Sounds pretty typical for the Coast Guard. I'm switching accounts from stuff in the Capabilities world to stuff in the Personnel accounts. I think the XO is trying to level out responsibilities for a little more parity between the Reviewers. The current Reviewer for the Personnel accounts has a bunch of other stuff she's responsible for, all of which seems to come due at the same time, so she gets absolutely swamped at certain points in the budget cycle. It'll be a slow-ish relief process as we trade duties, but we've got the time since we're both in the office, just switching desks.

There's a couple of really cool things about taking over the new accounts. I'll learn more about pay, health care, hiring, the civilian work force, reserves, personnel policy in general (think hazing, equal opportunity, harassment, all that), promotions, insourcing, boards, bonuses, housing...than I probably ever wanted to know. I got in to some personnel issues as XO and CO, but this is a *whole* 'nother level. I might actually end up understanding the officer promotion process, which is almost completely opaque to me right now. Zones, year groups, deep selection, passed over, reordering...I know the words, but have no sense of how they get put together to make a workable system.

Also, personnel are involved in *everything!* The service wouldn't exist without its people. Programs are made up of people. Take the people away, and nothing gets done (well, except for CGBI (Coast Guard Business Intelligence)--I think there might be metrics in there that are completely automated.). So if I wanted a job that has the potential to have a major impact on the service, well, I've got it now.
I was talking to the most senior Personnel Reviewer earlier this week. He's getting ready to leave, transferring to Air Station Barbers Point (lucky buggah!!). So I've been trying to pick his brain as much as possible before he leaves. It was actually kind of funny. I went to him about two weeks ago about an issue with civilian employees, and he started going into all these *incredibly* technical budget processes with ease and confidence. I left his cubicle with my head spinning, thinking, omg, not only does he sound like such an expert, it's all so complicated, how the hell does he keep it all straight?! and thank gawd!! he's around with all that knowledge so I don't have to figure it out on my own. Haha...joke's on me...now I've got to learn it.

So anyway, I was talking with him, getting a brain dump about an insourcing issue, which is a good topic for getting into a lot of the technicalities. We broke out the FY13 CJ (Congressional Justification) to look at the FTP (full-time personnel) waterfall (stick with me here) and how technical adjustments correct previous years' vapor creates and go on-budget for mil-civ (military-civilian) conversions which straighten out the funding between PPAs (program, project and activity)...aaauughhghggghhhh!! **STOP!!** My brain hurts! I found myself fervently muttering to myself, "please don't let me ef this up, please don't let me ef this up."

One thing he said stuck out to me though. I don't remember exactly what he was talking about, it might have been the technical adjustment table, but he said it's one thing that no one else cares about. The Budget Coordinators don't really pay attention to it, it's not important to the Reviewers. The Personnel Reviewer is the only one who keeps track of it and makes sure it's correct.

Which made me wonder, if no one cares about it, why is it important to make sure it's right? Nobody pays attention to it, probably nobody even ever looks at it. So why all the freaking hassle and gyrations to make sure it's accurate, especially because it changes damn near daily? I know the colloquial definition of integrity is "doing the right thing even when no one is watching." But what about when no one even cares?

I say in my Philosophy, "...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." I think what I meant by doing a good job in that sense was based on how it might impact other people. If I was lazy or slack or just didn't give a shit, someone else had to cover for me, whether it was my XO, my guys, my shipmates on another ship, the shoreside maintenance guys or other support folks...somebody still had to do the job to make sure things continued on smoothly. And pawning off responsibility like that is just *lame.*

Maybe there's some staff member somewhere, either in the Department, the Administration or on the Hill that might look at that table...and throw a fit if it doesn't jive with what we say somewhere else, and make lots of other people's lives miserable trying to figure out what the discrepancies are. Or maybe if it's not right this year, it might not be an issue, but it snowballs and becomes a nightmare in another couple of years for someone else to fix.

And then there's the fact that I'm just not sure I could let details that are well within my control and the scope of my responsibility to slide just because of a perceived lack of importance or visibility. It sort of offends my sense of rightness in the world. I prefer to add order and goodness, be a calming effect instead of offering chaos and bedlam. There is most definitely a time and a place for mayhem, shaking up the status quo, rocking the boat, you might say, but I don't think technical budget tables are quite the right forum. For some reason, it feels like being absolutely proficient with the technicalities provides much greater credibility for being able to offer out of the box thinking and creative solutions.

So I've convinced myself yet again that doing a good job for a good job's sake is the way to go.

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