Management Decisions

I have been sitting here this morning listening to the two senior people in the security operations center I work in discussing staffing and access.  You see, the security operations center does not currently operate.  We are in the process of standing it up.

In any event, as I listen to them speak about what access entry-level and journeyman people will need versus what rights and privileges “senior” people will need, I am reminded once again of a fatal flaw in organizational thinking regarding management.

In a couple of months, when this operations center is fully operational, I am certain I will find myself reporting to some “senior” person.  However, the use of the term “senior” is meant to describe the level of experience the individual in question has with a certain set of tools, or in a certain environment.  It is akin to describing an auto mechanic as a journeyman vs a “master” mechanic.  The problem being, knowing how to fix a car doesn’t mean you know how to run a dealership.

I am speaking now as someone who will always be a technician and never a manager because I do not have a degree or a PMP certification.  But the simple fact is that both I and every other contractor I know has worked on one or more failed programs run by people who do have degrees and PMP certifications.  So, while I know no one is ever going to actually read and act on what I have to say here, I will say it anyway.

Management is not a college major.  It’s not a name tag.  It’s not a corner office, power ties, or business lunches.  It’s not being called “sir” or “ma’am” by ass kissers in your office.  Management is a role, a process, a means to an end.  And on the whole I think we have entirely too many wholly unqualified individuals sitting in big chairs, with big titles…who don’t know shit.

Management starts with clearly understanding what has to be done, and selecting the right people to get it done.  It begins with the creation of accurate job descriptions.  It involves cooperation between recruiters, hiring managers, and the actual manager who will lead the personnel in question.  It involves actually understanding the work and the skillsets required to accomplish it.

After you have determined the goal and hired the personnel, you need to clearly define the roles, the milestone, the expectations, the penalties and incentives, and the risks.  Then you need to pass this information on to your people.  There is nothing less productive than an employee that does not understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, when it needs to be done, and in what manner.  A clueless employee is just a butt in a seat.  An FTE.  An excuse to bill hours to the customer.  You do your customer, your company, and your employees a disservice when you engage in this type of management.

Management involves a clearly defined and understood chain of command.  One of the things I liked best about my favorite manager of all time is that when the customer showed up in our space and started grilling us, she would intercede.  I can still recall her saying, “If you have a question or a problem, you come talk to me.  Do not talk to my people.”  *That* is management.  That is freeing me to do my job by taking on the responsibility of doing yours.

Lastly, management involves a lot of intangibles.  Sure, you have the pedigree.  You have your bachelor’s or master’s…or God-forbid your PhD.  You have your PMP.  You have your 40 hours of this training and 80 hours of that.  All wonderful.

Do you know how to motivate people?  Do you know how to get the best out of the people who work for you?  Do your employees see themselves as part of a team, and you as the team leader?  Do you take the side of an employee when they are right, even if it puts you at odds with YOUR manager?

Or do you see your job as simply standing by the clock to monitor when people come in and when they leave; cracking the whip from time to time during the day; taking long lunches and; hanging out with big-wigs?

Can you juggle multiple tasks, and people, and events?  Do you freeze in an emergency?  Are you capable of prioritizing, providing guidance, and pushing your team across the finish line?  Or do you simply provide the excuses and point the finger at other people when things go sour?

I will never be a manager, because I lack the credentials.  In spite of the fact that I manage an international gaming group with hundreds of members, and spend my evenings managing a much larger group of people than most of the organizations for whom I work.  In spite of the fact that I can, and do, all of the things I listed above.

The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t really bother me much.  I have enough to deal with at home and in the cloud.  I am happy to do my job, cash my check, and go home.  But on some level, it does stick in my crawl a little.  Always having to answer to people who I wouldn’t let run one of my guilds, much less handle national security related activities.

And the further truth of the matter is, it’s their loss not mine.  I make plenty of money.  I forget what’s going on at work as soon as my ass hits my car seat.  I have my evenings and weekends to spend as I like.  There are no long hours or late nights.

So why am I “bitching”?  Because it grates on me a little that someone who has no real skill or ability in management will be placed in charge of me because the “paper well”.

Sigh…. 20 more years to go….

 

 

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Tired

I will not go in to a long dissertation on the origin of the word “exhausted”.  It is not necessary to know the history of the word to understand its’ common meaning.  But I wonder how many people use this word, and think they know what it means, but actually do not.

I am not tired in the sense that I stayed up too late last night.  I am not tired in that I have performed some hard, physical labor and worn myself out.  I am exhausted.  I am bone weary.  I wake up feeling like I never went to sleep.  Walking in from the parking lot feels like an imposition.  I have no energy or enthusiasm for anything.  If I sit still and do nothing for more than a couple of minutes I will nod off.  This situation does not change no matter how early or how late I go to bed.  Though, if I stay up too late it gets worse.  But going to bed early makes no difference.

I began, a few days ago, to contemplate the upside to the circumstance I find myself in at work.  That being, that I do not have to be here mentally to do this job.  I do not take work home with me.  I do not spend my evenings and weekends trying to work out a situation in my mind before arriving back at work.  So…  I am free to apply my mental energy to the things I actually care about, and to spend my free time doing the things I’d rather be doing.

That’s the silver lining.

The cloud is the way I feel each morning as I pass through the gate.  It is the emotional equivalent to being dropped in to an Olympic Swimming pool full of Jello.

There is no point or purpose.  I am not using any talents or gifts.  I am routinely surrounded by people who have no idea where I’m coming from or what I’m talking about.  Because they were born for manual labor, and their minds do not expand much beyond picking something up and putting it down.  It is a frustrating, tiresome existence.  There is no challenge, no growth, and no opportunity for advancement.

As is frequently the case in these types of situations, the people running things are not doing so because they are particularly good at it.  They were simply here first, or knew someone, or planted their lips on the ass of the man above them at just the right time.  So I suffer the plight of “technicians” all over the world.  Where some bean counter wants you to do what cannot be done, and because he has no experience actually doing it you cannot get him to understand why it cannot be done.

We get told that we need to make sure the customer is happy, because our contract is up for renewal.  At the same time we are not supposed to go “above and beyond” in fulfilling the terms of our contract because it affects the metrics when we take extra time with someone…and the metrics must look good, because our contract is up for renewal.

I am expecting a letter shortly.  It’s a thanks for going the extra mile from a Director.  The only way to get higher up the chain would be to get something from THE Director of the agency.  Will I get any kind of recognition from those above me for a job well done, or reflecting well on our company to a very high level individual?  Not likely.  What is more likely is that my manager will view this as a threat to his position, and he will bury it

Which is why I asked the Director’s assistant to CC the Director of Global Operations for my company on the letter, and not just my supervisor.  But the real question is, should I have to go around my manager just to get recognized for doing a good job?  No, I shouldn’t.  But this is how it is.

I am so tired….

Waste

It is funny, and appropriate, to me that each morning the last thing I pass before pulling in to the facility where I work, is a waste treatment plant.  The pungent aroma of human waste perfectly sets the mood and prepares me for the bullshit I will deal with each day.

My workplace, like many others, has multiple layers of management.  As best I can tell, the function of these people is to state the obvious, impede progress, negatively impact productivity, and attend meetings where they discuss how to more effectively accomplish the first three tasks.

I have a team lead.  He has a manager.  There are other teams with other leads, and they each have a manager.  All of these teams do the same things, on the same contract, for the same customer.  The location managers report to a state manager, who reports to a regional manager, who reports to a global manager.  There are various and sundry other managers with various titles that intersect with this organization, but these folks I just described are my chain.

The manager for the location sits here, in a room downstairs.  He sits next to the manager for a location miles away.  They virtually never leave that room.  Neither of them interacts in any meaningful or positive way with the people that work for them.  They just send out emails all day requesting this and demanding that.  They stop work in the middle of the day to have meetings to discuss how the work is going.  They ask us to update our contact information, including our seat assignments and emergency contact info, sometimes three or four times a month.  There is a list, and it is long, of the things that happen here that make no sense.  But yesterday took the cake.

Several months ago my team lead came up with a form to better help us keep track of what we have installed and the state it is/was in.  When you have 4-5 people installing hundreds of machines it can get a little complicated keeping track of what was working and what still needs to be looked at.  So he developed a checklist.  He then sent this checklist off to the state manager for approval to use it in our day-to-day operations.  Why he didn’t just use it for our own purposes without saying a word I have no idea.  Anyway…

Silence.  No reply.  For months.

Yesterday he received an email from the location manager.  It was a copy of the checklist he had sent off to the state manager.  The location manager informed my team lead that he had come up with a checklist and wanted the team to review and comment on it by COB because he wanted to get it implemented ASAP.  He changed a few words, added a whole lot of unnecessary crap, and claimed it as his own.  And now, after months of silence it was imperative that this checklist be implemented immediately.

You see…the state level management had changed which team reported to which location managers the day before, and it was important that this guy start making a name for himself right away.  He had to put his name on our team.  He had to generate some paperwork to demonstrate that he was doing something.

Meanwhile, several of the teams are short a man or two.  But we are told there is not enough money in the budget to hire more people.  We have however, plenty of money for managers.

People are stirring behind me.  The time has come to start the day.

Time to inhale deeply and prepare for the bullshit.

Life is a Woman

Life is a woman.  She is fickle and flirtatious.  Grinning at you one moment and raging the next.

We men vie for her affection.  At times, for a moment, basking in the comfort of her warm embrace.  But, for many of us those moments are fleeting.

Years are spent trudging through biting winds and driving rains, for minutes by the fire in a plush living room.  Always with the specter of the storm outside hanging over the moment; and the knowledge that we can, and likely will, be cast outside again at any moment.

Why start this blog, and why with this topic?  Because I have decided to get back to writing about life.  Not necessarily  just my life, though I am sure that will occupy much of this space.  But, the life that many of us share.  The struggle we deal with day-to-day.  Assuming you care enough to struggle.

I know there are many of us that just pass the time from cradle to grave.  Never striving to be anyone or do anything.  Existing but never living.  Content with nothing.  I am not one of those people.

It is for those of us that question things that life seems most fickle and cruel.  When you dare to ask why things are as they are, and must they be that way, the answer you receive is often harsh.  You look up at someone who has made it to where you’d like to find yourself and wonder how they got there.  Then it dawns on you.  They made choices, or encountered good fortune, or had a friend in the right place, and the time for such things in your life is all but gone.

This is no video game.  There is no reset button, no new lives.  There is no opportunity to see how things go if you try it one way and then choose a different path when the outcome is not to your liking.  In many cases, probably most cases, you are locked in to the choices you made when you were too young and ignorant to realize that you were making choices.

This brings me to where I find myself this morning.

Have you ever had a job that you enjoyed?  A place you went to every day that was full of people you liked to be around, with challenges through which you could grow and management oriented toward helping you do just that?  I have.  For two short years I worked in such an environment.  I went to work every day looking forward to seeing my co-workers.  I faced a few hurdles, and overcame them.  I felt good about what I was doing and who I was doing it with; and I looked forward to continuing down the path I was on.

Then life, that fickle bitch, cast me out in to the cold again.

I now leave work each day with the hope that I will die in my sleep before morning comes.  I hope that somehow the space-time continuum will bend or break and I will find that the drive in never ends.  That somehow I will simply never arrive.

Not because what I do is particularly hard.  It isn’t.  Not because I am poor.  I am actually paid pretty well for what I do.  But, because it is meaningless and there is no path out of it.  I am on the bottom rung of a ladder that has no more rungs.  There is no discernible path up from where I find myself.

I went from a management team that kept an eye out for things that they could assign to you to help you grow, to a management team that keeps an eye out for things for which to write you up.  I went from an office where everyone was on the same team, striving toward the same goals; to an office where there is no team and the only goal is for the manager to look good to his manager…which usually involves some form of random disciplinary action against a lower level employee.

When I was in my late teens I worked at various places that were very similar to this.  Though I am a defense contractor today, there is a striking resemblance to the car washes, gas stations and pizza joints of my youth.  All these places, including this one, have in common the fact that the people who actually get the work done are considered expendable.  No thought is given to the wives and kids at home.  No thought to the mortgages and college tuition being paid.  No thought to the lives and careers.  Just employee number ###, and the fact that doing more work with less people is how you get your name in the company newsletter.  Which of course puts you in line to bury your nose even deeper in the ass of the guy above you…but maybe, if your lucky, it puts you above some other guy so you can get some ass kissing of your own.

The funny part is, it is the same company as my last office.  Different management.  Different contract.  Same company.  What a difference management makes!  Though to be honest when I am referring to this particular group of people I should put management in quotes.

I guess at one time or another we all look at our boss and think, “I could do what he does, better than he does it.”  In my case I *have* done what he does, better than he does it.  Yet he is where he is, and I am where I am.

Why?

Because life is a woman.