Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Sunday, (Nah nah nah naaaah).

So, it's the Sunday before crew change, and it's my morning to do paperwork and to give everything an official thorough going-over before handing off to my relief next Wednesday.

My tankerman sat with me this morning while I filled out forms, which gave me a chance to go over the necessary paperwork with him, and discuss how we like to do things here. He's been aboard for about 3 months now, and has his own style and way of doing things, based on his experiences and the lessons imparted by his former supervisors.
Here's an interesting quandry: Finding innovative and informative ways to avoid saying "Because I'm your supervisor and this is what I want," as a means of providing direction when meeting resistance. Nothing earth-shattering here. As a part of providing a calm and efficient workplace, I want to encourage my tankermen to ask questions as to the reasoning behind decisions and procedures. I figure that we can find ways to improve things through varying perspectives, and nothing makes a man master material more than teaching.

Example: maintaining the Garbage Record Book, a staple item for the US Coast Guard to feast upon during their visits. The logbook comes with directions, and, when new guys want to fill out the log, I let them. There's months of data packed there, and each entry is a lesson on how to fill out the log. So, when I look in there the other day, I see a fucked-up entry that sticks out like a box of twinkies at a salad bar. Discussion ensues. How to make deletions, and why the entry is no good. Resistance is met. "Well, this is the way we did it on the..." you know, that old chestnut.
Here's where I'm curious as to the best way an experienced supervisor would handle this.

1) My way of providing direction is to say that the book has directions on page 2 as to how to properly fill it out. Further, consistency in the way the log is filled also is important, and I ask what exactly constitutes a 'bag' of trash (his choice of units), when the garbage pile was mostly made up of boxes. I said this to get him thinking about units, accuracy, etc, and also to show him why we stick to the same units of measurement (cubic meters, in this case) in the same book, so everyone knows how much crap we actually cart off this beast.

2) In reply: "Well, what the hell is a cubic meter?" My unthinking reply: "Really?" I follow this up with a quick backtrack. Sarcasm is not a good teaching tool, right?

3) We revisit the old chestnut. "Well, (redacted) does it this way, and he's been doing it that way for 20 years."

4) My stupid response. "Well, in 20 years, you'd think he'd read the directions just once, out of curiosity. Do you really want to follow the example of someone who doesn't think about why we do things, and just does them, right or wrong, out of habit?"

Bad way to lose the opportunity for a teaching moment. What follows is 3 minutes of back-and-forth, obdurateness and foolishness, and I have officially given up. I use the nuclear option. "Look, this is how I want the book filled out. This is how the Coast Guard wants the book filled out. If you can't do that, let me know right now. It ain't rocket science."

What frosts my ass is that this discussion happened again this morning over a safety checklist. The garbage log thing being in the past, it was forgotten. Again with the "Well, (redacted) never filled this out." It being early in the day, and my breakfast and caffeine being not yet in my belly, I simply grunted and continued on with the lesson. That seems to be the best way to prevent my blood pressure from going through the roof. We've already proven that logical discourse hasn't helped with the matter. I don't know if simply being a good example is enough to impart the lesson, but it's a hell of a lot easier.

Update: I made a curried chicken with rice today for dinner. It tasted great, but smelled exactly like dirty laundry. Horrible.


Bill Brucato said...

We see the same old shit. So-and-so did it this way forever, why shouldn't we? Well I've given up being "Mr Nice Guy" whenever I hear this little retort. Even before the new age of ISM and SMS we didn't have the option of doing it the same old way. It's all well and good to try and be civil while imparting your order on things, but sometimes civil just doesn't work.
I had an officer that either was incapable of understanding how important the paperwork has become, or he just flat out refused to toe the line. He must have believed he was preserving some half-assed traditional "tugboat thing" in doing so. The old days are gone boys.
Either way it comes down to drawing a line in the sand and kicking these guys into play. I hate to use "my way or the gangway" but sometimes it comes down to just that.
The thing that is driving all this isn't just the USCG, it's the customer.
The USCG, ABS, OCIMF and maybe a dozen other acronyms have a hand in our operations. As the senior officer, our job is to make everyone happy. We're expected to have everything in order no matter what. I've taken the firm but patient stance of correcting, educating, cajoling and reminding ad nauseum in order for the flow to continue smoothly. Sisyphean tasks to say the least.
I don't really need the stick these days, I've got a crew that "gets it". But I think I'll keep it around anyway.
In any case, I feel your pain.

Barista Uno said...

A mutual link between HAWSEPIPER and the Marine Cafe Blog would be nice, I think.

Let me know if you think as I do.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Done and done