Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Analysis paralysis

I stumbled on this article:

During one of my JPME Phase I lecture, General Zinni talked about the JOPES process, and how if he had to move a tank from the east coast of the US to Kuwait, you could use JOPES to make that move happen. He then said that if you did that, you'd be a lance corporal and not an officer. His point was that any problem thrown your way would likely be a complicated problem, where there wouldn't be a straightforward answer.

Like the above article suggests, the best way to tackle these complicate problems is to go after the obvious pieces first. And yet, when we try to fix something at our command (say, training), how often do we immediately get wrapped up in the tiny details and miss the big picture? How often do we simply keep doing the same thing we did before because we can't get the 100% new solution?

I say settle for 90% correct, and refine the missing ten percent as you go along.

I have more than a few khaki (officers and chiefs alike) that have complained to me about something being wrong at our command. They tell me that everything from the training department to the Navy Day Ball is screwed up. Which, to be fair, is sometimes the case. My first question is always "What have you done to fix it."

Crickets. Then maybe a plethora of complaints, and something along the lines that the CO or XO should roll out some grand plan that fixes everything right in one fell swoop.

Guess what? That's never going to happen.

While the CO and XO are smart guys, they don't have the 100% solution right away in most cases. They'll probably be happy to get it 90% right in the first attempt. They don't need perfection right away. They know that the situation is complicated, and that it may take a while to get all the complicated pieces into play. But they want someone to start chopping away at the big, obvious problems now to get the situation under control.

Our IDWO qualification program is a classic example. I took it over and began making changes to the glaring mistakes we had, which was scheduling boards (it would take weeks to do it in the past, now it's done on a weekly basis), lack of training materials (I put all IDWO references on an Intellipedia wiki that is easy to use), and weekly training (now scheduled in advance, via a shared calendar). I don't have the full answer, and I know that the problem is complicated. Our program is still changing. I know that all my steps taken above won't completely fix the issues.

But I won't wait until I have all the answers to start correcting mistakes. I want progress now, not later. Why wait? It's not like any of this gets better with age.

Start fixing your problems now. Be 50% right now. Let 100% come in the future.