Saturday, March 2, 2013

One Year

I've been in CG-821 for a year now. Or just over a year, since I've been pondering this post for about a month now. It's interesting for me to compare what I think I know now with what I didn't know when I started.

First of all, the learning curve associated with this job has been astounding. In previous jobs, I was used to the overwhelmed, just keeping my head above water feeling for about the first two months, but then it would gradually ease until about four months into the job, I'd have a handle on it. Even OPS on the WHEC-378 didn't take but about four months to figure out. This job, though -- whew...I'm just now to the point, maybe since about December, where I feel like I have a good enough sense of things to suggest I know what I'm doing. Which is *NOT* to say I know everything I need to know. But I usually know enough to answer the question...though I still say, "I don't know" a *lot!*

Second, there are gawd-damned ZOMBIES!! in this job! I'll work on something, complete it, turn it in, file it away...and it pops up three days, three weeks, three *months* later and I'm trying to kill the damn thing again! Thank heavens for an encrypted hard-drive which stores all my deleted, sent and saved emails. Though I really gotta figure out and fix that warning that pops up about archiving files not completing soon...not all my emails are there, and I can't search them easily because the "archiving is not complete." Archives, encryptions, zombies??? I thought I worked in a dang office!

Third, it's all about the assumptions. I cannot *tell* you how many hours I have wasted chasing numbers for DHS- or administration-required reports. And all because I wasn't smart enough to ask about the beginning assumptions that went into the numbers: Is it FTE or FTP? OE-funded? Or all discretionary appropriations? Does it include Yard and Reimbursable billets? OCO billets? Actual, enacted, President's Budget, or HAC/SAC Marks? But there is very most definitely a terrific sense of accomplishment when I get the numbers to *MATCH!* When my ladder chart matches the waterfall matches the congressional justification -- victory is MINE!!

Fourth, this stuff is complicated. I don't know why it's so complicated. The best answer I've been able to come up with is, it's a bureaucracy -- that's just the way it is. It's especially aggravating when I ask what I think is going to be a simple question, like who owns a billet? and I find out I'm not even asking the right question. I think part of this is just because everything is so interrelated. There are very few cases where there is a single "owner" of a billet. There are stakeholders in billets -- multiple interested parties whose world of work is impacted when that billet is touched -- changed, deleted, upgraded, downgraded, vacated, or filled. But part of the complication, is that we *make* it so complicated. Personnel policies, internal processes, external requirements, statutes, regulations are all constructs we as a society and organization have imposed upon ourselves. Not saying we don't need some of that guidance, but lordy it sure does add extra effort.

Fifth, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN EASY BUTTON!! It is very rare indeed to find a circumstance that the easy solution is the right solution. Because these things are so damn complicated, the easy button invariably ignores a major component of the issue or problem. I was at a meeting discussing a particular initiative quite a few months ago. The program offered up a suggestion, let's eliminate these 17 things. I asked, how many of those things are there in total? Program answered: 17. REALLY?!? *That's* your answer?!? So rather than going through and figuring out what we as an organization actually *need,* we'll just get rid of something because it's a convenient number?!  Not just *NO!,* but **HELL NO!!**

Hmmm...apparently, I'm still fired up about that.

Second and third order effects are important, which also limit the "easy button" answers. I spend a lot of my time thinking about the linkages, the systems that surround issues I'm working on. How one thing affects another affects the whole affects something else...I wish I had a good example that wasn't "pre-decisional" or "budget sensitive" to illustrate. Suffice it to say, the personnel issues we're working with do not exist in a vacuum.

Sixth, having the right people in the room is *imperative.* I really need to understand general detail (gen det -- not GD... though I do use that acronym for it when I'm particularly peeved), which is a personnel management tool that helps ensure military billets stay filled even when individuals are on extended leave, medical holds, at school, etc. But like everything else, it is complicated. So I decided the best way to understand gen det was to get all the smart people who know the different pieces of it in one room (away from Transpoint and Jemal, our two HQ buildings, so that we can think straight) and hash through what we do know, what we don't know and what we really need to know. I scheduled the meeting once, twice, three times...(hopefully it actually happens this Tuesday), but the last time I rescheduled I waffled. One of the key, like key, primary, most important attendees had a family emergency come up and he couldn't be there. I thought about going forward with it, but then realized, it wouldn't do me much good to sit around a room with a bunch of people who, though they might be smart in their own work, didn't have the information I needed and discuss what we thought about something we didn't know much about. I think the same thing goes for having the right people in the room to make decisions.

Seventh, making the sausage, or even being able to watch the sausage being made, sucks. It can be disheartening, disappointing, frustrating, and generally soul-sucking. But somehow, for me it's still better to know which sacrificial lamb's toe-clippings are in the sausage and at least participate by sweeping up the little bits left on the floor than to be force-fed the final product without knowing anything about it. Maybe, just maybe my efforts will help keep the fat, cholesterol and sodium levels more reasonable.

Eighth, I work with the best people in the Coast Guard. As a group, and individually, the folks in CG-82 are wicked smart, incredibly witty, super helpful, and always great to be around. We bitch and whine an awful lot, about how various and sundry things about our jobs are obnoxiously crappy, but it is fantastic to work with and around a bunch of people that just plain *get it.* And I have the best roommate possible anywhere, ever!

This time next year, I'll be working on my departure OER, transferring responsibilities to the next sap...I mean Body Shop Reviewer, planning pre-arrival training and moves. But for now, I think most days I'm still satisfied with what I'm doing...and looking forward to the next lesson.