Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why "git r done" doesn't get anything done

 I loathe the story of "Message to Garcia."

 For those who have never read it, go here:

Or maybe it's not that I loathe Message to Garcia, but rather I hate how it's used as an excuse by too many fake leaders of today.

The premise of the story is good in it's own right: Someone gets told to make something happen, so he does. He has a "git r done" attitude, taking an order and not a lot of direction and simply making it happen. From the outside, this is a pretty admirable trait. How many of us wish our subordinates would simply "git r done" instead of stalling, whining, asking stupid questions, and otherwise delaying our work.

The problem with this is, sometimes the "git r done" attitude masks problems that leaders need to see. In my division, I've been pushing my sailors to earn the Enlisted Information Dominance Warfare Specialist (EIDWS). My division looked pretty bad (we had 2 out of 57 people qualified) and I wanted to change that. A lot of it had to do with a negative attitude towards the qualification, which caused me to resort to some draconian methods to "git r done."

The one day, I saw one of my sailors walking out of the building with a massive (like, 3 inches thick) stack of books. It looked like he was carrying a reactor plant manual, so I asked him what was in it.

"EIDWS studying sir, for the weekend."

"Why not just pull the notes up on your computer at home?"

"We can't do that sir, they aren't accessible from home."

Wow. Stunned shock by me. No wonder my sailors hated EIDWS, it was a massive pain in the butt to study when you had to lug a 10 pound binder around.

I got more involved in our program by posting the unclassified study notes on an Intellipedia page, adding more SMEs to the authorized signers list, and even teaching one of the subjects (RF propagation) myself. The "git r done" attitude of my sailors worked (we now have a dozen and growing fast!) but I found out the side effects when not executed properly:

- It masks problems. Your sailors may be blocked by stupid rules, or they may have broken equipment that needs repair. When you say "git r done," they get it done, but likely they skirt rules and overlook integrity violations to make you happy.

- It removes leadership from the problem by making it your sailors problem. Sometimes making something someone else's problem is a good thing. But if it's your sailors, in the end all their problems are your problems. When you simply dump responsibility on them, you have effectively removed yourself from the issue. If something comes up, they will be hesitant to come to you for solutions, since they expect to hear you say "git r done" if they do.

- It often means you aren't putting enough resources towards a problem. Unless you have lazy sailors, if there is a problem they likely want to solve it, but don't have the resources (manpower, training, equipment) to do so. "Git r done" puts all the responsibility in their hands...but without increased money, more people, or the right training to do so.

The point is not to baby our sailors...holding their hands through every evolution doesn't help them. We need to figure out how to help them make things happen. If we have a problem and need them to take the lead on it, instead of saying "git r done,"

- Tell them the end result. If your sailors know what you want in the end ("I need a 5 slide powerpoint, with a COA on each slide, and a recommendation at the end.") they can build their own path while knowing where they need to end up.

- Give them a starting point. I always try to give my sailors a phone number, email, or website to start on a problem. Once the ball gets rolling and their brains are engaged, they often come up with a better solution than I could have imagined. But if they don't get started easily, it's often times too hard to get even a mediocre solution.

"Git r done" has it's's just not the answer to every single problem.