Posts Tagged P3
This blog was started with a single post e-mailed to one officer in each squadron. It took off and amassed more than 20,000 views while it was active. Frustrated with always hearing, “this is how it’s always been,” this was an experiment to see if a ground-swell of support combined with open communication straight to the top of our leadership could effect change. For that reason, the headlines and some of the articles were intentionally demagogic and intentionally “click-baity.” It was supposed to be 50/50 bitching/solution. In retrospect, it was probably more like 50% bitching, 25% highlighting subversive problems, and 25% solution.
There were also several people that directly contributed to the content, and many that indirectly contributed. Additionally, there were several good debates and discussion in the comments. Thanks everyone for their time, passion, and contributions.
The blog has been inactive for a couple of years, but the most recent comments indicate that the content is still somewhat relevant – that still, 6 years later, nothing much has changed. It was born out of a desire to be impactful, and there’s going to be one final push to achieve that impact. Over the course of a week, there will be 6 new articles published that are about what I learned outside the Navy and how the VP community could benefit from those lessons. They are:
- Strategy: Why we need to be bad in order to be great
- Incentives are Important: Why our DUI prevention incentives don’t work but our mishap prevention incentives do
- Operations Management: The answer to “doing more with less”
- Talent Management: Allowing people to do what they enjoy and are good at leads to better outcomes for everyone
- A Strategy for Change: What are VP Navy’s unique strengths and how to leverage them
- Conclusion – The military is not a business: Why treating it like one can lead to failure
Each recommendation can be implemented entirely within VP Navy – we don’t have to change the entire Navy to change ourselves. Hope you enjoy the reads.
It’s been well over a year since I’ve posted. I’ve been kicking about some ideas in my head about what I should do with this blog, since I still get hits every day. This is most likely thanks to the navy employing anti-Google URLs for all their websites, so when people search for VP-30 they get my blog.
Over the last 2 years, I have heard many of our community leaders extolling the excitement of the coming years. How change is coming, and that change looks, and is, good, and was built upon the results of what we did on station. So I wanted to look at the changes that have happened in the last two years, and analyze whether those speeches meant anything. One change that happened is that there are evidently polls that we can embed in these blogs. If you will, please vote in the above poll.
1. The readiness system: It changed, but people still hate it. The readiness system changes align very neatly with some of the changes I proposed in an earlier post. Since I’ve been constantly accused of not having a lack of hubris, I’ll play into that perception and take credit for it.
The biggest problem still remains with what we have to do to claim quals (hereby referred to as tasks). The “checks in the block” for each task simply isn’t robust enough to say concretely that a crew or an individual is or is not capable of meeting the demands of the skills. We’re stuck in this mindset of having to measure every tiny detail of what a crew does and put a metric, limit, or score associated with it. Must attack in 5 minutes – 20 points! Must analyze CPA within 3 minutes! Must call a sitrep every time the SS2 is confused!
That way of analyzing performance is all about collecting a lot of precise data. That could work – however our data is inherently imprecise! Even worse, our means to collect that data is based on the message traffic system, or an excel spreadsheet that gets passed around and saved in a folder labeled S:\Trackers2009 – hardly an efficient process.
So while the readiness system made some strides forward, the biggest hurdle yet remains. And I don’t think anybody is working on this or even considering changing it because it’s so entrenched in the way we do business. If we’re to stick with this data-driven evaluation system, the system should get its inputs directly from the sensors and the computer on board. Furthermore, our sensors must be more precise and the data gained to be verifiable. Otherwise, create a more holistic approach to evaluation – there’s validation in unbiased concensus.
2. The budget – we’ve experienced so much turmoil with the budget. Squadrons might be coming home early! Squadrons are having their deployments cancelled! No more flying! All of these rumors didn’t come true in light of looming budget cuts. Our leaders’ leaders have gone on about how damaging the sequester is going to be. How costly it will be to try to regain the skills we’ll lose from the budget cuts.
My question is, “Is nobody even considering just making us more efficient?” If we’re so concerned with losing our skills due to reduced funding, why not reduce expenses in other ways? I think the two biggest costs we have are manpower and costs associated with flight hours. So here are some cost saving tips that wouldn’t reduce our skills:
Admin: in today’s world of connectivity – why do they have to deploy? They just eat up per diem and other costs that simply aren’t necessary. The biggest reason to keep things the same is that it’s “sea duty.” So the entire detailing process would have to be reworked to make it into a shore duty. But then how could they possible compete for that #1 EP against a deployer? This highlights how our advancement system sets up these invisible barriers towards organizational progress.
Measuring operational performance based on executing what we’re budgeted for ensures that we are NEVER going to be more efficient in how we spend our money for operational flight hours. The OPSO is given a certain amount of flight hours to cover each quarter. That amount is based on what we’re budgeted for. That budget is loosely based on how many hours it takes to keep everyone proficient. Our leaders fight to keep those hours from getting slashed.
Meanwhile, our PPCs have found an easier way to be more efficient – simply lie about when you took off and landed. This cheating of flight hours is rampant – with 20 minutes on either end extremely commonplace. On a 5 hour DFW, my guess is that the average PPC flies 4 hours and 20 minutes. That is a 13% reduction in flight hours. In an organization that values integrity above almost anything else, it’s shocking how acceptable this form of cheating is. My belief is that many PPCs inherently understand how arbitrary and stupid the way we MUST fly our hours is. Thinking that bending the rules is ok as long as nobody gets hurt, they do it. And they do it all the time.
Draw your own conclusions here – I don’t think that bending the rules by lying about takeoff and land times is wrong. I think it’s a natural result of dealing with arbitrary and outdated rules. With the high percentage of republicans and libertarians in our ranks, it’s surprising how many don’t extol the virtues of the free market when it comes to P-3s flight hours.
Since it’s fashionable to be budget conscious, why not perform an experiment with one or two squadrons wherein they fly what they need? We have that flexibility. Not every squadron has to do the same thing! Further, rumor has it that some squadrons may get the axe – that’s a perfect platform to try something different.
3. 100MB inboxes!!!! Holy shit our email space doubled! I was wondering why I hadn’t gotten an alert that I was over my limit in a while. This must have been a Herculean effort and a monumental cost – unbelievable that they achieved this with all the strain on the budget. 50 extra Megabytes is 0.05 Gigabytes. Multiplied by the 350,000 or so active duty personnel and you get 17,500 extra gigabytes of storage space, which is 17.5 Terabytes. You can buy 1 TB hard drives on amazon for $84.65 each, which means that extra storage costs roughly $1500. Multiply that by 2 to make it a server, then multiply by another 2 for the government rate and you get $6,000 + extra operating costs for that storage. Thanks NMCI!
4. The Super-JO program, or Squadron WTI program came…. And quickly went away. For those unfamiliar, the Super-JO program is where a Weapons and Tactics instructor (WTI) goes back to a squadron after their shore tour in lieu of a disassociated sea tour. WTIs come from the Wing (ARP Instructors), VP-30 (Weapons School… mostly), CTFs, or NSAWC/NMAWC (very specialized billets). The idea is that you take quality instructors, make them even better with another 2-3 years in platform, and reinvest that experience and talent back into the squadrons.
So the Super JO program was around for 9 months or so. To my knowledge, there was zero discussion with the Super JOs selected for the program about whether or not they were making gains in squadron performance. So why the cancellation of the program? It seems like a smart idea – have very experienced instructors that have the desire to give back to their community reinvest their experience and knowledge.
Was it competing priorities for bodies? One Super JO per squadron is 12 bodies. Are there not 12 people that can be poached from somewhere? Was it for career progression? “We have to send people to boat because they don’t understand what’s good for them!” Last I checked, there were only 24 CO/XO billets, and around 500 JO billets. Clearly, not everyone is going to make Skipper. Was it because they couldn’t convince anyone to go back to a squadron?
I don’t know why it was cancelled. But I know why it was started. It was started because the MPRWS continually noted the exact same deficiencies year after year after year. No amount of newsletters or tactical discussions or changes to the ARP program helped. What could you possibly do but inject MPRWS expertise directly into the squadrons? Bypass the layers upon layers gained from the “Instruct the Instructor” model (think about your squadron’s CNS/ATM program).
This program’s cancellation is completely and utterly deflating. If what we do onstation matters so much, why do our leaders’ actions not prioritize it? What can someone possible reason other than “My performance just doesn’t matter that much.”
In my time in the P-3 community, I’ve never heard the word “productivity” uttered at work. We don’t talk about it because we don’t think about it. It’s irrelevant, unimportant.
Let me ask you a question and think not only of your response, but also of what your P-3 peers would say. If there are two people of comparable rank and timing in a squadron, and both turn in the same quality and quantity of work, who is viewed as more valuable? They are the same, of course. But what if one of them completes the work by lunchtime and the other is still toiling away when the Ops-O is getting ready to leave? Who gets the better FITREP ranking?
This isn’t a ground-breaking concept by any stretch of the imagination. No doubt, many in the community have noticed the unhealthy consideration given to time at work as opposed to results of work. This idea came up in an earlier post about the absurd hours requirements for qual flights. In that situation, there’s no benefit for completing qual tasks in a shorter amount of time. What I want to discuss here relates to P-3 ground jobs.
It doesn’t take an expert to see that our community does not value productivity. In fact, I would say that productivity is usually punished. If you don’t think that’s really the case, then you have to at least admit that the perception of that punishment exists. In this situation, the perception is just as bad as reality.
Let’s say I work in NATOPS for my squadron. I’m working alongside at least one direct peer and likely competitor for FITREP ranking. What incentive do I have to be productive? The perception is that the guy who is in the office when the Department Head arrives in the morning and is still there when he or she leaves at night will, by default, be viewed as a hard (and therefore a good) worker. How many times have you heard someone praise someone else by saying he “works his ass off”? What if he works his ass off because he’s stupid and has to work extra-hard to make up for it?
The “Harvard Business Review” blog site recently posted some articles by Robert Pozen, a professor and productivity expert. When I read some of his posts I was struck by two things. One – a lot of it seemed like common sense. Two – we (the P-3 community) go against virtually everything he recommends. But hey, what does he know? He may be an alleged “expert,” but we’ve been doing things this way for over 40 years.
But let’s suppose for a minute that there might be something we can learn from Pozen. One of main principles is that “it’s not the time you spend but the results you produce.” Again, this does not go against common logic. So, why do we have that concept backwards in P-3 squadrons? Here are some issues:
1. We don’t know how to measure results.
In a perfect world, a Department Head, XO, or Skipper would easily be able to compare the results of everyone’s work. Person A produced a better product than person B, etc. Person A wins. If person A and person B produced the same product, but person B did it in half the time, then person B would be rewarded as more efficient and productive (and would likely be tasked with more work to fill up that extra time). Too bad we don’t live in a perfect world. Instead, Person A works in NATOPS and person B in maintenance. The people making the decisions on who to reward have to try and compare productivity and results in two completely different areas. FNET’s inspection went really well, but so did the AMI. Who did their job better? (Here’s where the Department Heads duke it out.) “Well, my guy worked his ass off,” one DH insists. “He even came in on weekends.” There it is … we have a winner!
2. We’re stuck with the old shift-work concept.
Shift work is really effective for factories, coal mines, and lots of other workplaces. How else would the Starbucks baristas know when to show up? So, shift work is fine, but it’s not really conducive to intellectual creativity. Do you think employees at Google are told that they’ll be expected to check in with their boss at 0730 and out with him no earlier than 1630 everyday? That’s absurd! They can hoverboard in or out of the office throughout the day whenever they want! The environment fosters creative freedom, and that creative freedom brings innovation and improvement. Google even encourages their engineers to take 20% of their work time to focus on projects of personal interest. Can you imagine telling your boss in your P-3 squadron that you’ll be taking one day a week to work on your own projects and ideas? Is it possible that someone could use that time and freedom to reinvent outdated tactics or figure out a better way to plan a flight schedule? It doesn’t matter. It will never happen. It will never happen because…
3. We are a “lowest common denominator” community.
The 20% time idea is silly to us because the assumption will automatically be that the free time will just be wasted at the beach, or the bar, or in bed sleeping in. It’s much more important that we’re in the squadron “spaces” – visible, and setting a good example. Someone once told me of how they floated the idea of working from home. The logic seemed sound. He was doing computer work. He was forced to fight for an NMCI machine at work while he had an actual functioning computer collecting dust at home. But alas, it was a stupid idea because you aren’t really working unless you’re observed working. Of course, he was also reminded that there were other squadron mates of lower ranks who HAD to be there from 0730 to 1630, so he couldn’t very well have them see him leaving early! Again – lowest common denominator community. This isn’t a “big boy” or “big girl” club. This is a glorified kindergarten class (and I’m sorry, but Arnold is not walking through that door with a pet ferret). Yes. A Kindergarten Cop reference. I’m wicked hungover and that’s the best I could do.
The machine has been running this way for a long time and the company culture is ingrained in all the gears and cogs. We don’t want productivity; we just want the illusion of it (via somebody sitting in a chair at a computer). Then we will have a perception that the guy who sits in the chair at the computer the longest is doing the most for the command, even if it’s not the case. Then we’re faced with the choice between working at our best and most efficient but not being rewarded for it, and playing the game the way it’s always been played, because we ashamedly understand that’s the only way to be appreciated and rewarded. So we work on our spreadsheets and our trackers and the other tasks that we can complete in half the time as the person who tasked us, hoping that he’ll say of us, “Well, he is working his ass off.”
Sorry for the break – I’ve been a bit disillusioned and just haven’t been inspired to write anything down… So here’s what I’m currently pissed off about:
Flying for the hours
Backup to the backup preflights
Why is it that one of the prime motivators of our operations departments is to fill some arbitrary number of flight hours? Why is that measured in months? Is it really as simple as, “If we don’t make the hours, next time we won’t have as many hours!” It can’t be like that. If it is, what jackass is in charge of this thing? I’d like to talk to him, and tell him that we fly P-3s. Not many of them. And they’re less than reliable.
So these pussies in charge are unable to grasp that flying weekends to make those hours comes at the cost of our peoples’ morale and motivation. Rather than fix our fucked up system, we crush our people to appease the superiors. I have an easy solution – give us a range of hours to fly, and have that range span 3 months – let us manage it over a longer period of time. This would account for an unlucky streak with maintenance, lack of planes, planes breaking on the road, etc…
If we insist on flying weekends, let us take the plane to a different field, shutdown, get lunch, then come home. People would sign up for that shit.
… backup preflights. Why can we not tell people that we fly P-3s, and they’re prone to breaking. Last I checked, we don’t contribute that much anyways – is the world going to end if we cancel a mission? If we show up late? fucking christ.