Sunday, April 4, 2010

Git 'Er Dun or Follow the Rules?

The week gone by was definitely a long one which I'm relieved to say is over. I wish I could could say I was doing something at least mildly active or heroic, but I wound up doing mission tracking and other support type stuff from two separate Operations Centers.

Of the MANY interesting things I observed going back and forth between Reading and Lexington (and almost Rehoboth, but I was spared from that trek at just the last minute), one that stands out right now was a Major (O-4) dressing down a Lieutenant Colonel (0-5).

That's not something you get to see every day.

Without getting into the weeds, the crux of the issue was this -- Is it better to do something that's procedurally *wrong* but fulfills the needs of a mission, or to stymie a request for help or information because it wasn't done in the right way, or it was given to someone who could plausibly say "But that's not my job."

In case you're wondering, I have a very strong opinion about this -- within the boundaries of safety and general operational prudence, always lean towards the former option.

That's what the Major thought, too, and he made that forcibly clear when the LTC practically bragged about having spent the shift denying requests for information from a headquarters unit that may have been technically going about it the wrong way (ironically, we all found out later that the headquarters unit was justified in its requests all along, but that's another story).

"Don't stop the train just because a procedure may have been skipped," the Major said. "Write [the procedural error] up as a bullet point for your After-Action Review (AAR), but if someone needs something in the moment, do whatever you can to make sure they get it."

The issue at hand certainly wasn't life-and-death. Sandbags and checkpoints in Freetown and Lakeville aren't quite on the level of a Taliban ambush.

That said, in modern everyday life, there are few opportunities to test the way people are going to react under fire. But the closest that we all come -- and it happens in tons of everyday situations as mundane as an office place or a household -- is to see the way people react during the minor *crises* that pop up all the time.

If the presentation is in five minutes, but your colleague has forgotten to make the photocopies (as he was supposed to), he may ask for your help in a panicked tone. You have two options:

a) You can stand there and lecture him about screwing up for the next five minutes, as the room fills up with senior executives wondering why the handouts aren't ready; or,

b) You can spring into action, you can make the requisite copies, and get them on the conference room table before anyone is any the wiser -- the lectures and the AAR can come later.

I will state here that which option you choose speaks VOLUMES about your character.

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