Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why we hate the Admin-O

A while back, I was working TDY for NAVCENT when the commander decided to put us 24/7 operations.  Our office split up the rotation, as did every other office...except admin.  When my Sailors had admin issues, we had to move their shifts around in order to accommodate admin's restrictive hours.

As I was checking out, the guy in front of me was a bit rude with the YN, and after he left and I was finishing my check out sheet, the YN complained about him.  While there isn't an excuse to be rude, I did mention to the YN that they had left the command hanging while we were on shiftwork.

"Well sir, we don't need to go on shiftwork.  We're not in operations."

It's rare that I want to hit someone, but that notion did cross my mind.



Admin is one of those things that has to be done correctly, yet doesn't appear to have value to the organization.  The notion that admin has no value, though, is completely and utterly incorrect.  Without EVALs, instructions, awards, clearance paperwork, etc. being completed properly, a command would simply grind to a halt.  Operations cannot happen effectively without good admin support.  When admin is broken, operations personnel spend crucial hours making up for their woes.

And yet when you talk to most YNs and Admin Officers, the conversation feels like chatting with Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.  I hear a lot of whining.  Most of the whining stems from feeling under appreciated by the other departments.  The funny thing is, Admin Department is set up to be the hero for everyone, if done correctly.

My advice, if you happen to be an Admin-O or YN:

1. Know your command's battle rhythm, and be a part of it.  Too many commanders leave N1 out of the "war council," and too many Admin-Os are content to let them.  If members of the command are on shiftwork, admin should have a plan on how to support them that is communicated to them.  Maybe that means staying open late on turnover day, or maybe it means giving priority to watchstanders on one-two days of the week.  Small gestures like this go a long way when someone has a pay issue and had been on the midwatch for two weeks in a row (This advice works great for chaplains and JAGs too!).

2. Insist on good processes, and teach them while enforcing them.  There is nothing wrong with telling command members to fill out paperwork correctly and to reject improperly filled out paperwork.  However, just like bedside manner for doctors, there is a way to do this without pissing everyone off.  A smile, handshake and helpful attitude are going to come across much better than a condescending shake of your head.  And yes, those of us on the other side notice it.

3. Make it easy for us to help you.  If you know something is complicated, build a good SOP for it and share it, either by making lots of handouts or posting it on your website.  Don't have a website?  Create one for free on Intelink (www.intelink.gov) and direct people there.  Give us sample award citations and a formatted 1650 and you'll get less errors in the future.  Oh, and post the admin tracker...you'll save yourself time having to answer questions about where things are at in the chain.

4. Respond to email.  Seems simple, but N1s and YNs are the worst at email.  Even if it's a quick response, being blown off tends to really irritate people.

5. Pick up the phone.  Seriously.  Email breaks all the time.  If you have something that looks wrong, call.  The phone number is typically required to be put on a routing sheet.  Calling shows someone you really care, plus it gives you a few days breather before that Sailor comes down bothering you for a status on their paperwork.

6. If you lose something, own up to it.  Admin is terrible for blaming everything on everyone else.  Every Sailor is taught to own up to their mistakes, but apparently the buck stops anywhere but N1.  Owning up to lost paperwork gives you "street cred" fast, plus departments are more likely to quickly get you a reprint of the paperwork and less likely to pass over you.

7. Process paperwork with a sense of urgency.  We get it, properly done paperwork takes time, and it isn't your fault if the CO takes his or her sweet time signing something.  But everyone in operations moves as quickly as possible, but when they see admin not behaving the same way, the first word that comes to mind is "lazy."  If something is delayed or stuck at a level, call and let that person know.

8. If you close for anything, make it obvious on the schedule and stick to the time!  Nothing is more frustrating then waiting for admin to come back from a 1.5 hour lunch or 2 hour training session with no idea when they will return.  Again, first thought that comes to mind is "lazy."

9. Have a SME, but make sure all personnel can solve 95% of your problems.  YN 'A' school is sadly a joke.  Take the time to train your YNSRs and YNSAs to solve complicated problems.  It will take more time short term, but long term you'll fly through paperwork quickly.  No one wants to here "Well, George is the only one that can do that, and he's on leave..."  Operations doesn't say "Well, too many BWCs wanted to go on leave, so we'll have to shutdown till tomorrow."

10. Be proactive.  Are you seeing poorly formatted EVALs?  Leave requests?  Awards?  Ask to conduct training.  Don't be afraid to get the XO and/or CMC to get you some time in front of various groups to teach them.  They'll want you to do so, and you'll be a much more valued member of the team.  Also, walk around to each department regularly (if you are allowed access).  Go see the watchfloor.  Go stop by the planning shop.  Ask the folks their on watch questions.  Find out if they need help.  Getting around on the deckplate level can defuse problems before they get out of hand.  Those folks will be SHOCKED when you stop by, and they'll likely go out of their to help you in the future.

We don't want to hate the Admin-O.  Be our hero so that we don't.

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