Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mid-Week Rants - A New Meaning for MSP

Rant #1 - I told the Chop (supply officer) to order us a new brow banner. MSP has taken on a new meaning: "My Spare Parts." It's like someone is holding a ginormous vacuum over the command passageway hatch (it used to be the weapons shipping hatch, but we don't have any weapons to ship and we don't have a weapons officer anymore, so now it's just a personnel access hatch). Guys wearing every ballcap from every boat on the waterfront are descending upon our ship and casing the joint for anything we have that's nicer than what they've got. I'm actually glad we have forward shore power in right now so that they have to use the command passageway hatch. That way, I can hear when people are grunting and exerting themselves trying to push equipment up the ladder and out the hatch. The CO, the COB, the Chop, and I have had to put the kibosh on seabags and armloads full of MSP stuff being sucked up out of the hatch. I hope we're getting the message across to the crew and our topside watches are being vigilant to stop anyone who tries to cross the brow carrying anything that isn't accompanied by a DD1149 (the official document to authorize the transfer of material from one command to another).

Rant #2 - Without saying anything negative about any particular people or organizations... Today I had a flashback to my first experience working with civilians (both "govies" and contractors). I had just reported to my new shore duty job, and I had never before worked with government civilians much less contractors hired to do important jobs for the government.

Let's see, how does one start a sea-story from shore duty? "Once upon a time"? No, I think I'll start with, "So there I was..." So there I was, new in my job and attending one of my first meetings. Note that my job had been gapped for years before, so I didn't get a turnover from anyone on what my job was supposed to entail. This was supposed to be an in-progress review (IPR) or status update on a project. We, the U.S. Government, were paying this civilian corporation large sums of money to do some analysis and provide us a report of the results.

Wait, hang on, first - you may want to get out a sheet of paper and something to write with. This is kind of like one of those word-problems in grade school math you always hated. Just jot down a few notes here and see if you connect the same dots that I did during this meeting.

The project started on September 1st of that year and would cease being funded on December 31st. This meeting I attended was on December 8th. So everyone is all happy and smiles and saying hello and how are you (subliminal message: there is nothing to be alarmed about, everything is fine, these aren't the droids you're looking for...). The contractor representative gets up in front of the conference room and shows us pretty powerpoint slides that show they're 50% done with this scenario and 60% done with that scenario and 45% done with this other scenario. NONE of the scenarios were 100% complete - they were ALL in some state of partial completion between 40 and 70%.

Now, at that point, alarm bells were going off in the back of my head that this project was in trouble. If you just take that piece of paper of yours and draw a graph with Sept 1st on the left and Dec 31st on the right side of the x-axis, and draw a percent scale on the y-axis. Starting at 0% on Sept 1st, and drawing a line through roughly 50% complete on December 8th, where does the slope of that line take you to on Dec 31st? Alternatively, on what date will the line reach 100% complete?

To make matters worse, my new government civilian employee counterparts were just smiling, shaking their heads, and saying, "Okay, great, thanks for the update." I wanted to jump up and down and throw a fit that there was NO WAY on EARTH they were going to finish the project on time (especially considering everyone was about to leave for two weeks of holiday leave), but since I was new, I bit my tongue. I figured MAYBE, just MAYBE, I didn't quite understand how things worked around there and I should learn some more before I go throwing stones.

Low and behold... We came back from our holiday leave, and there was all this hate and discontent and gnashing of teeth in the office about how the contractor corporation had not finished the project and the funding ran out and oh-me-oh-my what are we going to do now??? I was like, well, DUH! You didn't SEE this coming??? I could've told you this was going to be the result back at that IPR on Dec 8th!!!

As much as I loved my shore duty job, it frequently drove me nuts to work with people who would not give concrete answers and just glossed over things with a few popular project management buzz-words in order to make it seem like they had everything under control and it was all going to come out fine.

Anyway, I had flashbacks this morning. Luckily, when the alarm bells went off in the back of my mind, I didn't have to jump up and down or throw any stones because there was a very wise and experienced O-6 there who was throwing the BS flag and calling people out when they gave non-commital answers. I was very glad he was there.

1 comment:

E.P. said...

Have you moved to the shipyard yet? Someday let me tell you stories about PHNSY. (Best done over liquid refreshment.)