Friday, January 8, 2016

Big Thoughts

This will likely be a multi-part post, because I'm still working on framing
the issue in my head. But I've been thinking for a while about how being
good at or doing well on inspections really translates into being successful
at the mission or effective at our jobs. 

DILIGENCE entered her "inspection cycle" earlier this fiscal year and has
gone through about half of our required inspections so far. We still have
our big ones, Command Assessment of Readiness for Training (CART) and
Tailored Ships Training Availability (TSTA, pronounced tis-ta) coming up in
the next number of months. We've had Finance & Admin, Ordnance Technical
Inspection (OTI, pronounced oh-tee-eye) and Ordnance Safety Inspection (OSI,
pronounced oh-ess-eye -- no idea why these are not oh-tee and oh-see), Food
Service Assistance and Training Team (FSAT, pronounced ef-sat), and Aviation
Standardization (AVSTAN). 

We've spent countless hours reviewing checklists at many different levels,
double checking them, building binders of documentation, running reports,
and on and on and on. And, truly, I do understand the need for all the
bureaucracy when it comes to safety, money, bullets, people, training,
accountability, etc, etc. There's a reason why we have all the regulations
and requirements, and the checklists we use for the inspections are hugely
helpful at making sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing as told
in numerous different places, spread through a couple hundred different

I'm not questioning the inspection requirement or process. 

What I am wondering is, in an organization like the Coast Guard whose
guiding principles are Service to Nation, Duty to People and Commitment to
Excellence, how does a commitment to excellence in inspections translate
into service to nation? Is there a direct link between operational
excellence -- being good at what we do out on the water chasing
narco-terrorist or rescuing people from overloaded and unsafe boats or
searching out a mariner in distress -- really what the American people pay
their taxes for us to do, and the sometimes mind-numbing tedium of being
good administratively? Or are administrative organization and operational
readiness two sides of the same coin?

I feel a diagram coming on: 

Hopefully, that worked. If for some reason the diagram didn't translate
through all the computers, it's basically a two-dimensional graph, with
"Mission Effectiveness" on the horizontal axis and "Administrative
Effectiveness" on the vertical axis. There's a scale for both axes, from
"Poor" to "Good." I think what I want my question to do is to fill in what
scenarios look like for each of the quadrants.

And is "Mission Effectiveness" a misnomer? How much of what we consider
"Mission Effectiveness," i.e., drugs seized, suspected narco-traffickers
arrested, lives saved, migrants interdicted, is just plain the luck of being
in the right place at the right time (the power of an effective intelligence
process not-with-standing)? And not being unlucky with mishaps because
sometimes shit just goes squirrely (an unexpected visit from Mr Murphy that
the best team coordination cannot avert)? 

I gotta stop now -- I think I'm getting to what's been bugging me, but I
still have a couple of layers to peel through.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer

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