“We do not put a premium on being good mariners,” Hoffman
said. “We put a premium on being good inspection takers
and admin weenies.”
I don't know why it's happening, but it sure explains a lot of things across much of US society. Politics, business, education, parenting. I wouldn't be surprised if it's part of what's behind the frightening US "cost disease" phenomenon from the Slate Star Codex post that was discussed here a few months back.
Funny thing is that as a bureaucrat, coming up with policies is my job. It tends to improve overall outcomes and satisfaction, but the same outliers described above are also magnified ten-fold (this policy is stupid because ...).
Instead we always freak out and add a bunch of new policies/guidelines, some more mandatory educational videos or classes, and maybe bring down the hammer on some people as well.
[EDIT] in fact it may be yet another symptom of post-Nixon-era cynicism. We expect institutions to lie to us about everything (which, to be fair, they often do and often have), so we (rather, the media) dig into any problem expecting criminality and neglect and generally bad behavior (and a great story!), so institutions have to go nuts to make sure it never looks like there's anything there worth reporting as maybe-sort-of-kind-of any of those bad things.
The exception that I've noticed from the airline-industry, is that they actually want to solve problems systemically and don't care who has to take the blame.
For something to go wrong, multiple failures have to happen, and there's not a lot of blame put on individuals, as much as "the process".
In most other organizations, IME, fixing "the process" is expensive. It takes time, and effort, and it's quicker and easier to blame "those idiots in IT/accounting/HR/etc". Most of those types of organizations don't actually want to solve problems, they just want the problem to go away. So they end up choosing the easier option, rather than dealing with the problem systematically.
NTSB is, as far as I understand, actually very careful about not blaming anyone. They look for causes and solutions, not blame. They, as far as I know, pride themselves on this.
They try, again inasmuch as I know, to not blame a person - but to blame a process. This is not a distinction without difference. It fosters an attitude of cooperation and openness.
Again, I'm not an expert but I know a bunch of pilots and listen when they speak. If the NTSB blamed people, I suspect they'd have a lesser willingness to speak positively about NTSB.
Edit: Someone beat me to it. I will leave this as I think it offers a bit more of a comprehensive view.
Because even when the cause was blatant human error, it can still be a process problem -- how did this type of human error slice through all the protections against it? What process can be put into place to prevent disaster even when some bonehead does that same thing again?
But air travel safety is atypical.
If the crash rate for planes was the same as it is for cars then air travel would have to be prohibited as a necessary measure to prevent the extinction of the human race.
Most endeavors are not of that sort.
And so in most other contexts we could use their methods to produce a process that will prevent a particular category of trouble, but suffering the trouble costs $2M (instead of $2B) and implementing the process costs $20M.
And then people will want to implement it anyway, even though they shouldn't, because "it solves the problem".
Or, seeing the obvious fallacy in spending $20M to prevent $2M in harm, a "compromise" is proposed to spend $1M to prevent 5% of the $2M harm, still with no one doing the math. And then, problem still 95% unsolved, more half measures are kludged on over time until the surrounding bureaucracy becomes politically powerful enough to be self-sustaining.
Because people don't want to admit that some diseases aren't worse than their cures.
Well, no, this is obviously false. Much more car travel is done than air travel; bringing air fatalities up to the level of car fatalities would have a negligible effect on the human population.
Bringing crashes per vehicle mile up to the level of highway crashes per vehicle mile according to https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/pu..., assuming that an average airplane carries 140 people, and assuming (very wrongly) that crashing it kills all 140, you could get deaths to airplane crashes up to 843,000 per year for the US. This would be significant -- it would be an increase of over 30% in the annual death rate -- but it is less than the existing surplus of annual births over annual deaths. A modest reduction in population growth just isn't going to drive the human race extinct.
Imagine it was as easy to become a pilot as to get a driver's license, there were no flight plans or restrictions on where people could take off or land and a 500MPH jet could be purchased for $150,000 because there would be less regulatory overhead and more competition in aircraft production.
Affluent people would be commuting by jet. There could easily be ten times as many air miles traveled or more.
That doesn't seem to stop people from driving cars.
> societies with much higher death rates have no problem growing anyway, as they compensate with higher birth rates.
That's just survivorship bias. Why would one cause the other? There were also societies with high death rates and low birth rates which for the obvious reason no longer exist.
If you claim to be worried about extinction of the human race, you'll have to consider all societies, not just the ones with pathologically low birth rates. A tiny group of people committing suicide has zero effect on the overall human population.
If the cause is a person's behavior, that is the same thing as blame. Look at the report of the Pinnacle 3701. Probable causes from :
1. the pilots' unprofessional behavior, deviation from standard operating procedures, and poor airmanship;
2. the pilots' failure to prepare for an emergency landing in a timely manner, including communicating with air traffic controllers immediately after the emergency about the loss of both engines and the availability of landing sites;
3. the pilots' improper management of the double engine failure checklist
It's hard to look at that and say that the pilots weren't being blamed.
Sometimes, a human is to blame and there's no getting around that. This doesn't change their goal.
When you only look for the blame, you tend to be satisfied once you reach that goal and might ignore the cause.
So, what's wrong? maybe they forgot and need a checklist item? Maybe the reading on the wrench should be recorded in the log? should there be a second person that verifies?
They know they ask a lot of people, and it has to be right, every time. People get sick, tired, distracted, whatever. we're people. People are the least reliable part of the system.
I think blame only falls to a person when they've lied. Falsified a log, claimed to do something they didn't etc.
I think the focus on process can be terribly annoying, because it's so much easier to say "Bob fell asleep at the machine" than diving into all the events that led up to Bob falling asleep. Note that both can be true or, more accurately, the process problems actually need the statement "bob fell asleep" to be true to make sense.
The idea to prioritise processes is that it's repeatable. Individual behaviour isn't within your control, except for the processes that hired somebody, educated them, defined their tasks, and created the environment in which they perform these tasks.
In a small team, or family, or group of friends, it's perfectly fine to dock Bob's allowance for falling asleep. And the instinct to exact revenge, or punish people is strong, because those instincts are the result of evolution and norms of society, both of which until recently only knew small groups where everyone knew everybody. That's why it takes a lot of discipline to act against these instincts, and obviously, as you said, because focussing on the process may also uncover others who failed, and it is more tedious.
People get frustrated with bureaucracy. Sometimes they're obviously right. But the idea that all bureaucracy is wasteful, or (equally common) that governments have any particular talent for wasteful bureaucracy is somewhat misguided. Because there aren't many examples for organising teams of sometimes hundreds of thousands of people to work on shared goals without a wasteful bureaucracy, and governments and the private sector tend not to differ that much.
I've seen one interesting example of a different structure for organising a large number of people: capitalism. It arguably works, being excellent at delegating authority to exactly the right person for any possible decision. But I believe even that example isn't convincing, if you start considering all the "waste" that capitalism hides in plain sight: advertisement, competing efforts doubling work, the complete financial sector, non-monetary losses due to financial hardship, the losses from unemployment being essentially wasted potential etc.
But taking out decision control and relying on automation has had its problems.
The problem being that the ass-covering is a predictable response to known stimuli.
What do you propose to do to get them to stop doing that?
There are many reasons for this. Some will insist it's the morally right thing to do. But a better explanation is usually that it's in no one's interest: Career bureaucrats are simply never in a position where lying is a good option unless they're trying to cover up a crime they committed. They're risking their job, and possibly criminal prosecution, without any real potential upside. For elected officials, the same is usually true–with the potential exception of a lame-duck President who has nowhere to go but retirement. But at that point, they've probably gotten used to managing their office without lies.
Of course that's a description of the past, and the lower reaches of elected executive office (but not employees) have a worse track record, where many a town mayor with a coke habit has lied to cover his creative accounting. Nixon also comes to mind. But before you say "Iraqi WMDs", I'd say that was arguably a case of a government convincing themselves through wishful thinking.
Maybe they're just really good at lying? It's the old problem: is the revelation of a scandal proof of spreading corruption, or does it show that the system is working, and the bad apples are caught? It really seems to come down to personal judgement. I can only say that having interacted with governments on multiple levels, and seen a lot of, for example, the vast amounts of data they produce and decisions they make that are never the subject of the news, I have come away with the impression that the Government is usually trustworthy, and that decisions are often made with a surprising lack of emotions. For example, I once won a lawsuit against a local government. Yet a few months later, we won a tender that we deserved to win, even though the decision was made by the very same people we had previously fought in court.
If all else fails: even if government were corrupt to its core, saying so would be less effective than acting as if it weren't, and focussing on specific incidents. Because faced with a public that believes only the worst of every politician removes all incentives for them not to become exactly that sort of thoroughly corrupt politician. And if it's part of society's lore that all powerful people lie, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when people new to government just follow the clues they got from popular culture.
I'm sorry.. what?
They just... make stuff up. Stuff that can be easily checked via a quick Google search.
Look at Russia's state-controlled TV, the current leader in this.
Is this some kind of advanced sarcasm?
People want one answer on what the problem is, because then the most amount of people can understand it in a tweet. They don't want complicated solutions. You say it yourself, it is one problem.
It's interesting that another active comment thread on the HN front page today is about evolutionary game theory & the selfish gene. I'd posit that there's a whole class of "evolutionary systems", subject to the axioms of 1.) large numbers 2.) random variation 3.) selection bias and 4.) competitive pressure. And any such system will always tend toward survival and maintenance of the status quo as its primary imperative, for the simple, tautological reason that those organizations that don't are replaced by those that do. This operates on multiple levels, from the molecule to the gene to the cell to the individual to the firm to the bureaucracy to the society as a whole. Oftentimes, behavior that makes no sense on one level seems obvious if you consider the "actor" to be the level above or below what you're looking at: the gene instead of the individual, or the firm instead of the individual, or the society instead of the firm.
In your example, for instance, the primary actor whose survival that the bureaucracy optimizes for isn't the individual: it's the bureaucracy itself. Individuals who serve their own interests instead of the bureaucracy are rejected and fired, as are individuals who serve the other individuals that the bureaucracy supposedly benefits. Why? Because bureaucracies without this incentive structure are replaced by bureaucracies with it.
And there actually are plenty of areas within U.S. society where bureaucracies are not the primary actors. The individual is still valued over the firm or bureaucracy within therapy culture, artist communities, fandom, Internet forums, dinner parties, and many other social contexts. But because there is no central bureaucracy or organization to point to, these niches fall off our radar screen; niches where individual humans remain dominant are by definition areas without enough resources to support a bureaucracy.
Baumol's cost disease is different, and IMHO a more short-term ailment that's afflicting developed economies as they transition to the information age. This phenomena of growing ever more complex systems on top of individuals is pervasive, and will continue to happen as long as the population keeps growing.
The bureaucracy can fight but it can also lose. Blockbuster Video is no longer a thing that exists because of market pressure. Standard Oil was broken up because of political pressure. There have existed countries that, following the conclusion of a major war, actually disbanded the majority of their military forces, both voluntarily and due to external force. Countries have revolutions where the revolutionaries win and then exile or execute the previous ruling bureaucrats.
In theory the same thing can happen through the democratic process, although this is obviously less common because bureaucracies have a solid understanding of how to subvert electoral opposition.
If the wasteful bureaucracy will not commit suicide then help some less wasteful one to commit fratricide.
This sounds like a special case of the more general law of survival of the fittest (where 'fittest' means 'most self-sustaining').
Coastguard ships for example cycle the entire crew every two years. I imagine it must be similar in the navy. There is very little institutional memory retention -- and so the "process" emerges to try to direct all the human cogs as they pass through ...
The institutional memory is notionally preserved by the instructors in the schools and training centres (as well as documented Standard Operating Procedures, standing orders, etc). New joiners will have undergone standardized training, and although they still have to establish their role (storming, forming, norming, etc) when they join an existing team, they do in principle understand what they are supposed to be doing. In some cases, new joiners bring valuable new knowledge, skills or attitudes, so churn isn’t always bad. Individuals who have joined up for the long term will themselves have cyclic periods of training, with initial trade training followed by time in a unit, then additional specialised training at a school, then more operational tours, etc. Some highly-trained individuals may be embedded in the units themselves (e.g. at a barracks) to provide standardized, decentralised on-the-job training / supervision to newbies who have joined from a military trade school.
aligning incentives between organizations and the people who make them up is hard
But! but we're in IT and the Agile Manifesto is the exact reaction to that! We have a living proof that "another way" is possible. Hire champions and trust them on the task, it makes them more enterprising and crafters and makes them deliver systematic higher quality. Remember how IBM's IT used to be: Pathetic chain of specification-driven documents that "decision-makers" couldn't possibly read.
Let's just say for the moment that the rest of the industries haven't found an "Agile metgodology" that befits them. Let's hope it's just a matter of time before government-sized organizations have an epiphany about how to apply Agile to death-risking processes.
I've been looking for the reason why IT has come up with Agile before anyone else (I don't consider Lean Industrial Management as Agile whatsoever) and I simply think it's because the first industry with so much information in it (it's in the title even...).
Now that other industries have to orchestrate huge processes with huge amounts of information, I hope they'll take into account what IT brought up to solve this issue instead of taking the "IBM route" further (more policies, more guidelines, more bureaucracy).
Non-IT industries are often ahead of the “Agile” movement in IT, having adopted Lean methodology and related approaches that actually applying engineering approaches to solve the problem identified, but not actionably addressed, in the Agile Manifesto.
Most so-called Agile methodologies (the exceptions mostly being adaptations from Lean methodologies, either in other industries or from the Lean Software Development movement) fail to do this, and Agile has largely become exactly the kind of cargo cult, situation-blind consultant-driven, value-blind nightmare that the Agile Manifesto was a response against.
He compared the discretion given to commanders in the American West vs. Civil War battlefields. The more realtime the communications, the more that higher commands interjected in lower level decisions.
With advances in telecommunications, we shift decision-making up the chain of command, leaving subordinates to manage inspections and admin-weenieness.
*I can't find a transcript to verify, and as much as I'd like to re-listen to the 6 hour episode, I just can't at the moment.
It also could have a Harvard Business Review episode, after reading this: http://www.leadingageoregon.org/assets/docs/Other-resources/...
This while over at the German side Hitler would increasingly micromanage as the war dragged on.
BTW - it's not the recent one anymore, there's a new one. Yay!
Personally I'm hoping for a "Common Sense" podcast by him sometime soon !
I think you need a second factor to make flawed metrics a big problem: increased competition.
More competition strongly incentivizes all actors in a complex system to favor optimizing over the currently-measured metrics rather than the true goal.
You see this playing out across all parts of society today: academics that chase impact score rather than groundbreaking research, bankers that chase short-term profits to the detriment of actual sound banking, and now we have a Navy that can't do basic seamanship.
I think we really need to recognize as a society that if the thing you care about is inherently hard to measure (e.g. science, the overall stability of the financial sector, the ability to fight the next war while still at peacetime), there are no shortcuts, you just need to suck it up and keep trying to measure the real thing rather than only relying on proxies.
Throwing more and more effort at optimizing over bad metrics will only lead to long term disaster.
On-topic: I noticed the tendency towards formality when dealing with many, many municipalities. This is, in and of itself, inefficient in many areas.
Example: A hole opened up in my schedule and I can fit your meeting in sooner. By the time I got a response, that hole was long since gone. Worse, I left that hole open in hopes that they'd respond sooner. They will say that you should have let them know, but you left a half-dozen messages with their secretary.
Lesson learned: Get to know the secretarial staff. I'm not going to suggest you bribe them, but I understand if you do.
Always makes friends with the doc, supply, and admin. Usually through booze and not being an ass.
I don't care. My verbiage is intentional.
We all salty, Marine. We all salty. It took me years before I could leave my rack without ensuring it was squared away. It took years before I could invite the missus to touch me while I slept.
Eight years is what I served. Worse, it was in two pieces and separated by time at MIT. Yeah, I was a smart Marine. Don't laugh, I can drive a broom like it is nobodies business.
Anyhow, I won't tell you I understand. I will tell you that I can relate. As for the karma, I ain't never scared.
But, you're right. Always be nice to the folks who decide your life. Strangely, that's frequently not the person who projects power. However, I speak to the choir. Hopefully someone else will pick up on this. Otherwise, I ain't never scared. Karma was meant for burning.
Methinks us that are out tend to be salty, those still in, seems like drawdown has bled a lot of salty knowledge out.
Sounds pretty much like Soviet Union, actually . The chickens have come to roost, indeed. Managerial science driven process oriented organizations and what happened in the soviet countries share the same basic tenent: individuals don't matter. This is a cancer for performance and quality of life. The former should concern all economically minded people and the latter just everyone. It's not a lose-money, gain happiness proposition, it's a gain-money, gain happiness one.
The problem is that local optimization (career, prestige) causes the global system to reach an unoptimal state. In computer science we say - greedy algorithms seldom lead to globally optimal solutions.
Of course, no one is stopping from developing key-performance indicators for a person being a good person - but this seems really arse-backwards way to approach the problem as being a good person is what most people would prefer to do naturally given a healthy environment to begin with.
To slightly misquote Suzuki on his basic idea on how to maintain good character in a group: "Watch, but don't judge. But, do watch". . Ie. make it understood everyone is responsible for their results but don't be an anal retentive accountant while you're at it.
This is a damn fascinating read. A bit like autobiographic Catch-22.
It occurs to me that at some point in the history of navigation, the skipper was probably the only literate person on the ship, if that. His log, if he kept one, was the only source of data. And you couldn't get his account until he got all the way back to port, assuming he survived.
Today, the ship (or business) is a floating, real time data acquisition server. Folks all over the world are analyzing the performance of the ship from every conceivable angle. They are literally gathering and processing more data than the skipper herself can even comprehend.
People do what you inspect, not what you expect.
edit: Wikiquote attributes to Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (IBM) but earlier instances can be found (see comments below).
Lovely bit of language.
The idea that they're supposed to learn on the job is insane, you don't get a lot of second chances on aflight deck, you don't get to make a lot of mistakes on a boat twice.
- One we maintain to prove to our potential adversaries that we maintain it, in order to preserve stalemate.
- One we maintain to actually use.
I'm going to venture a guess that a well-functioning defensive military is inherently unstable, as anyone who understands how powerful it is will realize that it never actually has to function.
This is why it makes sense to have a purely defensive military work on a reserve and draft basis.
You don't really need the defensive military - until you do - in which case you want to magic a really big and reasonably competent one into existence quickly.
Because no politician wants to go down in history books as the person who let the military shrink and lose readiness for a WW3. Sure, maybe the American military has indeed lost readiness, but it's more nuanced and can't be pinned on one person. So just like other parts of this thread suggest, it's a giant CYA operation.
Over and over, in many different guises, I hear stories like this one. What characterizes them all is excessive faith in reductionist measurement-driven processes, and then the attendant army of humans-of-stock-photography consultants that inevitably lurks in the vicinity of such processes.
What's interesting is that this will continue even after you remove the electrical wire.
Sometimes (often) involving cheating where existential considerations for organizations or leadership is involved.
Do you really think reducing standardised tests would improve the education system?
If so, what objective evidence can you provide for this belief?
Your comment is precisely the problem: objective metrics will always support their proponents' arguments for more measurement, while any upsides to a lessened objective grading will be difficult to show because they'll involve subjective assessment or less assessment.
Do not confuse the investigator's convenience in accessing a truth value for the truth value itself.
Edit: she was Assistant Secretary, not Secretary
Standardized testing has been around for decades, but was a tool for sorting students. It is only within the last decade or so that we have tried to measure the performance of schools, districts, and states, as systems.
It always blows my mind when I see people on HN complaining about school testing and measurement. If you tried to run a web application or a business with zero ways to measure its performance, how do you think that would go?
My mom's been a teacher for ~40 years, and one thing to realize about standardized tests it that they don't provide any new information to the teachers---the teachers already know which students are struggling and which students aren't. In fact, standardized testing reduces teachers' ability to respond to variation in student ability, because all students need to be prepped for the same test. Preparing lesson plans is one of the most time-consuming aspects of being a teacher, and standardized tests make that task more difficult by adding more requirements. IMO, it would be better to focus on ways to reduce teachers' administrative burdens---perhaps by making it easier to collaborate and share lesson plans with other teachers.
 And I mean genuinely make it easier to collaborate, not forcing teachers to spend 90 minutes a day trying to enter their plans into the latest and greatest ed-tech website. If you want the information standardized, hire someone specifically to transcribe paper plans into whatever system the school administrators pick.
If a kid passes first grade without getting the correct answer to 2+2 there is a problem, it isn't acceptable to say your school doesn't teach math until second grade. In a single school that is just fine, but people move and so on a national scale that does not work.
Now I understand that not all kids have the same abilities or backgrounds, and both make a big difference in how far those kids can go. That needs to be managed, but it needs to be managed in the standardized process.
It does seem to me that teachers should have a few common lesson plans to choose from. There is no reason a teacher should have to create their own plan. Being a good teacher within a plan should be easier because they can prepare to use a working plan.
Now I understand that not all kids have the same abilities
or backgrounds, and both make a big difference in how far
those kids can go. That needs to be managed, but it needs to
be managed in the standardized process.
The overwhelming factor in educational achievement of a population is the quality of home life, and in particular the participation of adult family members. Poor families have neither the time, money, nor enculturation to facilitate meaningful improvements in home life. Without a social commitment targeting the root causes, such as by providing free day care, the standardization efforts achieve nothing, and unnecessarily constrain local control.
Since the Bush-era standardization reforms, the achievement gap has only _grown_. And we're still matriculating kids without the requisite skills as the alternatives, like holding kids back year-after-year, are neither desirable nor practical.
It helps you identify which schools are in need of special attention and require structural changes.
Public education is supposed to be a leg up into the world for everyone, not the start of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
The reason why kids from poor families do poorly in school is also the reason why those families are _least_ likely to be selective in their choice of schools. These are not independent phenomena.
So unless the only utility function that matters is freedom to choose your school, approaches like vouchers are unlikely to improve things and could easily not only perpetuate but exacerbate achievement gaps and derivative social issues, like crime.
Scaled-up voucher programs like those previously advocated
by Secretary DeVos show the worst effects. There have
recently been four statewide voucher programs: Florida,
Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio. The Florida study is
inconclusive, and the others show large negative effects. In
some respects, the Louisiana results are more convincing
because the results have been corroborated by two different
sets of researchers and students were assigned to vouchers
by lottery—the most rigorous way to evaluate vouchers. In
terms of providing convincing results, the Indiana and
Ohio programs, are somewhere in between, but these show
negative results as well.
Voucher supporters argue that the results have been worse in
the recent statewide programs because they have been
“heavily regulated,” by which they mean the requirements
that students be tested, that these results be made publicly
available, and that schools must let in any student who is
eligible for the voucher. The fact that this fairly minimal
oversight is considered controversial or heavy-handed,
however, only reinforces that private schools are designed
to be exclusive and have little interest in external
I wouldn't expect charter schools to actually change much because the evidence is very clear that the most important factor in achievement, overwhelmingly, is the child's home environment.
Focusing schools on testable performance leads to unintended consequences. My kids had heavy homework loads starting in first grade. They were still kids! and got robbed of much of the joy of childhood that should been afternoons playing at the playground and running around the neighborhood. All so the schools could pump up their test scores, by forcing their "customers" to carry the load.
By aligning our educational institutions towards testing we created educational institutions that teach the test and not the rest.
Standardized testing is super important. I agree, though, it's a pretty poor proxy for how well schools are performing and who needs what... By way of example: schools with low-scoring test takers likely have environmental issues that impact school performance. The conclusion should likely be beefing up the budget and expanding the schools role to being more "community centers" full of social workers.
Poverty is a cycle, individual disruptive elements in school hurt all students, and that little 'war on drugs' has removed a lot of the support structure we expect in those families... Reducing the budget of schools with students in bad situations who can't test properly because their students are in bad situations and therefore can't test properly seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy. A prophecy that happens to align very nicely with the ideology and stated goals of the group that pushed "no child left behind".
This is a great idea I would be fully in favor of. But we can't start having these types of conversations unless we know how schools are actually doing.
If it's true then it's outrageous that this can happen in the US.
Is this a dank meme?
such a shift is natural and necessary in the context of the future warfare being completely robotic/autonomous. People role would be exactly inspection and admin. And as preview of the future - we've just had 2 people driven destroyers lose to the most probably autopiloted a cargo ship and a tanker.
I'm trying to find the "seaman's schedule" someone in the navy posted on reddit, but it basically demonstrated that between watches and other ship duties, there was on average 5 hours of sleep a day a seaman could get, usually at random hours, and not always consecutively. Curious when in that schedule they could slot in "watching video lectures," and whether they'd be able to even stay awake during them, let alone focus.
It's not all doom and gloom though. If you properly communicate with your chain of command, and slowly train junior personnel into the proper qualifications, the problem starts to go away. Though, you're not looking at more than 5-6 hours of sleep straight on a good day.
This is like giving your sailors food poisoning every week to make them tougher. You just make them weaker instead. And when the time comes, you don't get soldiers capable of eating rotten food. You just get weak people.
This, to me, is a major problem. Many (most) young humans do not do well on 6 hours of sleep or less for a long time. One could probably load up on stimulants, but this I suspect will bite you later.
Given that this happens in peacetime, do you think it can be improved with better technology? That is, instead of, say, three people watching screens 18 hours/day you get them to do the work as well (or better) in 12 hours/day if you give them better displays? I suspect it is not that simple, but would still like to know where the snag is.
As an example: Deck division will have 5/6 people on watch for a smaller ship: Port & Starboard lookouts, an aft lookout, a phone talker, someone actually steering the ship, and then a boatswain mate of the watch that organizes those individuals, keeps the ships schedule, and other various tasks. None of these individuals will actually be looking at a screen, but instead scanning the water for other ships.
Another division down in CIC may have just as many people looking at all the radar and managing the various data streams coming into the ship.
So, if you have 12 to 15 people in your division, which does happen, you'll be on Port & Starboard watch ( 5 hours on then 5 hours off, with a 4 hour mid-shift ).
Now, take an individual that is trained on Ship A, then after 3 years goes to Ship B. Ship B is a completely different class and has new(ish) technology systems. That sailor is then going to have to be completely retrained on those systems. After another 3 years, that sailor can seriously be shipped to a completely new platform where they then have to repeat the cycle.
Adding new technology would just complicate the matter.
That cost may be coming from a different bucket and thus not visible to the folks who decide whether to invest $X in a systems upgrade, but in the grand scheme of things, getting humans to do the job that machines today do well is a big waste.
When you hear arguments that a badge reader is expensive and instead we will just put two soldiers at this or that door (24x7, btw) and no one jumps and calls BS on it, it is a strong indication of a broken system.
Add crew and duty hours would go down. Reduce hours of operations and maintenance would be better. More crew obviously costs more. Reducing hours of operation means a smaller mission or more ships.
If you're in engineering, kit is constantly breaking and it is never all working; you'll never catch up, so it's just a question of what you decide to leave broken right now and what you need to fix. The things that are working need constant attention to make sure they stay working; you'll never get them all checked, so there's always something that definitely needs checking really quite soon.
In warfare branch(es), as in all branches, the manning situation is never right; there are always gapped billets, requiring other people who don't quite have the right skills and experience having to share that extra workload amongst themselves and to cover extra watches. Going to defence watches or the like (six on, six off, or even four on, four off) is a permanent mindfuck that leaves everyone as a kind of zombie, skating through on routine.
The kit is often old, and it's all pretty custom, and so much of it is painfully delicate. This ship doesn't like warm water, that ship has a habit of not being able to power the radar all the time, damn comms constantly up and down. With relatively new classes of ship, every one of the first dozen is basically an experiment, so the new kit refuses to work properly with each other, or maybe just plain at all, and the original purpose the ship was designed for is long gone and what was a cold water submarine hunter meant to last a week on its own before being back in port is now a warm water patrol vessel out for months at a time, constantly stressing systems that were meant to have a steady supply of cold water cooling and were never meant to be active for weeks at a time.
Every ship and crew will habitually be asked to do more, with less. Harmony time vanishes, billets get gapped, refits get put off, maintenance cycles become less frequent. It stops when ships basically cease to function.
Sometimes it's a wonder they don't sink upon leaving harbour :)
EDIT: Here's an article with a full video... Which is basically the same as the GIF:
Some divisions are different, but a majority of sailors have a pretty solid stream of work. Maintenance of a ship that is close to 20-30 years old is a constant battle. Hell, even a ship that is 5 years old requires meticulous care.
Deck division is responsible for maintaining a majority of the "skin" of the ship. So, a lot of painting and preservation. We are also responsible for all life-saving equipment on the ship: Life preservers, life-boats, any number of RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats), life-lines, etc. A lot of this time is spent supervising extremely under-qualified and unmotivated individuals.
It's almost akin to teaching an unwilling 5 year old to read, and then every single day constantly monitoring his progress. As soon as your comfortable that he or she can read without supervision, they are transferred to another division, or are taken off the ship.
> For nearly 30 years, all new surface warfare officers spent their first six months in uniform at the Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, learning the theory behind driving ships and leading sailors as division officers.
> But that changed in 2003. The Navy decided to eliminate the “SWOS Basic” school and simply send surface fleet officers out to sea to learn on the job. The Navy did that mainly to save money, and the fleet has suffered severely for it, said retired Cmdr. Kurt Lippold.
Six months of training vs a box of CD-ROMs. Amazing.
It's penny wise, pound foolish. We're perfectly willing to spend many billions of dollars per large ship, yet we eliminate the basic training programs for the sailors that actually run said large ships to save a few million. It'd be like buying a Ferrari, but skipping the seatbelts to save ten bucks.
Or, in tech, imagine if we eliminated CS educations and just expected all programmers to learn skills on the job. I don't think that'd work out too well.
Or replaced 4-year degrees with 4-month "bootcamps"...
Gordon R. England held the office at the beginning of the year and was re-instated at the end of the year. He held the office for about 4 years total. He had no Navy experience. His background was in the defense industry. What a crock.
Also, in England's case, the big red flag was his close ties to the defense contracting industry.
I've certainly seen this when in the hospital with family; new doctors would frequently ask me for historical information, including about what other doctors had said or done. I was fine giving it, but what if I hadn't been there?
Checklists are an easily observable symptom of an team drive for improvement of outcomes. But you can't reverse that and plop down checklists that are used under threat.
I'm going to try to find it. But, if I don't, you got the gist of it:
Have a checklist, and stick to it. Don't expect one person, or even multiple people, to remember all of the steps off the top of their head.
It's an -excellent- book about the application of checklists to error reduction etc.
I'm worried it might have been .NET Rocks! They have a great podcast, but their episodes aren't indexed by Google because of their website structure.
I'm gonna keep looking, and even check my home computer's history when I get home tonight, but I wouldn't hold your breath. Someone a bit above linked to a book that I'm pretty sure was the impetus behind the podcast I listened to, so it might be worth giving that a read.
EDIT: HA! I found it! It was actually in the press section on the book's web page.
As someone else said, there's a lot of ego involved too. Given that a lot of it is "brainwork", it's the only physical way they might be able to feel they're testing themselves against something.
Most of it in those jobs is just production-churn and an attempt by the higher-ups to save money on things that a) were bid low and b) have shitty margins.
And most importantly, know that this is not necessary. American doctor supply is restricted by the AMA. America could suck the best doctors out of many other nations if it so desired and its healthcare practitioners would be better rested, more mentally well, and far less error prone.
Seems pretty well researched by a quick google. Maybe they're eliding the support not because it's an assumption, but because it's so thoroughly established they take it for granted?
> But there is a wealth of evidence that says that doctor performance drops significantly with motor performance being harmed
That's true too, but I worry you're trying to rebut (X & Y) with evidence for Y.
If we find ourselves slipping into a battle of emphasis, maybe we face a problem of optimization?
It probably varies by specialty and even individuals, probably a monster of a problem.
Second half has been at a company with a very pro-family-time CEO, and as a bachelor that just means a lot of time to explore this awesome new city :) So I haven't yet experienced the "utter madness startup" I guess?
A battle in 1942 was lost, badly, because the USN crews were zonked from a routine that gave them almost no chance for sleep.
The Luftwaffe was more "professional" and worked their crews much harder and didn't take time to relax and had a culture of focusing 24 hours a day on the job.
I read - years ago - that the most active combat was in the area around London. Not a small area, but it allowed RAF to move squadrons to lower threat areas for reconstitution and rebuilding before rotating them back to a hot area.
The culture is risk-averse to a fault, but at the same time have nearly zero capability to accurately asses risk or fix problems beyond punishing people when things inevitably go wrong.
Official "risk assessments" are performed before every dangerous undertaking, with numbers that are pulled out of someone's ass, along with additional "risk mitigation" numbers that are also pulled out of someone's ass so that leaders have cover when an accident happens. "We performed all the necessary risk assessments and were still a go."
Let me give you an example. Underway replenishment is when one ship will pull alongside a supply ship and transfer fuel and supplies from the supply ship. It's very dangerous because the ships are within 300 feet of each other for hours on end.
A risk-assessment is done and briefed the night before. Those are a PowerPoint presentation with a grid of things that can go wrong on the Y-axis. There are two columns, "risk" and "mitigation," and in line with each disaster are the probability conflated with the severity of that happening. Not actual numbers, just words like, "severe," "marginal," "likely," etc. Those are color-coded between red and green.
One of those things is always "crew preparedness" or similar. The risk of having an unprepared crew that didn't get a lot of sleep is shown as, for example, "severe" and colored red. The briefer will say, "well this is a severe risk, so we're making an announcement that everyone needs to get plenty of sleep tonight and that mitigates that risk down to "tolerable."
Actually this is more technical than what actually happens most of the time, which is that you'll hear things like, "we've mitigated the yellow risk down to a green." The entire ship's company of NCO's and officers will watch that presentation and nod their heads along. There is never one of these that results in a decision not to do something.
And there you have it. I've taken you through the entire risk mitigation strategy for the Navy, that happens nearly every day.
Does anyone know the actual probabilities of disaster? If so, they're not saying. Are they changing existing procedures or spending additional money to fix problems based on actual numbers? Hell no.
Really severe problems are dealt with in the following manner; a "zero tolerance" policy for that problem existing will be created, and when disaster strikes, it's a career-ending event for whatever scapegoat is standing there. Problem solved!
By the way, don't join the Navy.
EDIT: Also, the "too much technology" portion of the article is laughable. Part of the problem is that technology that the rest of the world uses to avoid these sorts of things is seen as anathema to the luddite SWO community, and rather than embrace anything that could help automate error-prone tasks, they pay lip service to it and continue doing extraordinarily stupid things for tradition's sake.
Aircraft carriers are driven by issuing voice commands to (mostly undertrained) helmsman in an environment where any additional noise could result in a misunderstood command and disaster. Or the helmsman gets tired of standing for a five hour watch every day and accidentally turns left instead of right like she's told. Imagine driving a car by telling the driver what to do from the passenger seat. Not just a "turn left up there," but "turn the wheel 15 degrees to the left, ok, now turn the wheel back to center, ok, now turn it back three degrees to the right because you oversteered..." It's insane.
Former aircraft carrier OOD (and nuke SWO) here. I agree with your comment about fatigue, but did you get much bridge time? At least back in the day, the conning officer's voice commands weren't so micro-managey. They were along the lines of, "Right 15 degrees rudder , steady on course 090," which the helmsman would repeat back to make sure the command was correctly understood. The helmsman would then turn the wheel as needed to make the turn and steady up on the ordered course.
 The conning officer would specify the rudder angle in part to control how much the ship would heel in the turn. That can be important when you have armed jet aircraft driving around on the flight deck.
In many cases those helmsmen were undertrained or tired, as a direct result of cuts in manning/funding and additional requirements.
The "old" people in the navy, including many of the admirals at the time (ten years ago) had many of the same opinions as those expressed in the article (they need to stop looking at radar!!!)
What those people didn't seem to realize is that we were doing the same things they were doing 20 years prior with about half the crew they had.
That is the best-case, textbook way to run the model. Still very subjective pseudo-science, masquerading as objective risk management, but at least has something of a method to it.
In practice, the repetitiveness of the GAR model results in many crews blowing it off, and giving a vague, arbitrary cumulative score without any discussion around how they got there. This sounds bad, and by policy it is bad, but in practice I have observed no discernible difference in how crews approach risky missions and operations when they conduct a full GAR brief or just give a somewhat random score and move on. In other words, the GAR model does not seem to provide any tangible risk management benefit, and largely seems to serve as a bureaucratic CYA solution.
GAR was introduced in an attempt to reduce the number of mishaps occurring due to what was deemed to be excessive risk-taking. The statistics may demonstrate that it had that effect, though I would argue from my perspective that other training programs introduced to address problems related to risk assessment have far more deckplate-level impact and effectiveness. The problem with GAR is that it tries to objectively standardize something which is, by its very nature, dynamic and subjective. No two people, in the exact same situation and having the exact same capabilities and experience, assess the risk the same way. Assigning numbers to a series of broad categories and giving a color-coded risk level to the situation does not inform anyone of anything very useful. Discussion of risk factors is more helpful, but due to the way the system is structured, is a step frequently skipped.
What matters far more is focusing on continuous, dynamic training and education of those in billets for whom risk management is a critical part of the safe completion of their mission, and emphasizing clear communication unfettered by rank or positional authority to ensure that everyone has full situational awareness. Be respectful, but make sure that information can move freely between all involved.
I think what I learned from my superiors is that it doesnt matter so much what system is used for risk assessment, but whether a conversation about risk was had in a meaningful way. Sometimes quantification helps this, where complex systems can be analyzed and the consequences assessed. Usually if you are going to do that it has to happen well in advance of an operation. Othertimes the desire to get a number leads to a real ham fisted attempt to "quantify" things like how fatigued the crew is on a scale of 1-10, or to rate the environmental conditions. When the GAR model, which stands for Green - Amber - Red, was used to facilitate an honest conversation about how people felt about an operation as opposed to just checking a box so that it could be put in the logs. When I saw it being used as the former it absolutely made things safer, but that was very dependent on the attitude of those participating.
Do you know the people who studied for and aced all exams through brute force memorization, promptly forgot all the material or never understood how it would be applied, but now have the certificate that says they know X? That was 90-95% of Naval officers.
I had a one week class in digital communication, as part of a nine-week introductory class for new officers. They go over basic information theory as it applies to naval communication systems and encryption. The valedictorian of that class, who had just aced the test on digital communications the week before, raised her hand the following week to ask a clarifying question about a follow-on topic: "When you say everything is just ones and zeros...what does that even mean?"
That sums up naval training. I realized then that this person, despite all appearances of knowing the material and being an excellent student, had NO clue what anyone was talking about and hadn't for the entire class despite having the highest grade of anyone.
So you'd have an aircraft carrier CO with a Master's degree in chemistry who didn't really understand the concept of vector addition as it applied to calculating relative wind. He'd be yelling at subordinates for not being able to calculate (improperly) wind vectors and distances. All subordinates were clearly confused by this, felt like the CO, being highly educated and the CO of the ship, must know what he's talking about. If you'd ask the CO to explain what he meant he'd become irate and tell you you were stupid.
The nuclear officers/enlisted knew their shit, and those were some of the smartest and best people I've ever worked with. They'd nod their heads at the aforementioned CO and then ask, "he really doesn't understand vector math, does he?" when he was out of earshot. The rest of the crew would assure the nuclear guys that they must be wrong.
That sums up a big chunk of computer science. What answer did she get from the instructor?
It's a good question, coming from a non-technical person, and I'd definitely give a dirty look to anyone who laughed at it.
Perhaps that would be appropriate before said person had taken a digital communications class and aced a test on it. After that, however, I think a wry chuckle is very much appropriate.
He just unpacked the black boxes in a different order.
1)...at what? Many of them are very bright and well trained, but seriously, at what? People who go into leadership are often strong managers but that doesn't make them good captains or good seaman. They are incredibly skilled, just at the wrong thing. You gotta remember that at the end of the day it is likely someone under the age of 22 with their hands on the wheel and people of similar age running all the major systems. The promotion path to captain is not exactly hands on.
2)...oh yeah. They have been serving on ships for a long time. But in the Navy, serving on ships does not in any ways equate to seamanship. The Navy (and obviously IMHO) has a little bit of a chip on its shoulder about 'blowing shit up' that likely comes from feeling underutilized in our last to endless wars, and this is especially prevalent in the surface fleet. They tend to prioritize things like warfare officers and sometimes even ex-pilots for promotion up towards captain ranks. Those people are absolutely deployed but doing things totally unrelated to navigation and seamanship as a core mission. They should, but often don't have the time or space, have impeccable seamanship skills.
Luckily, I had a Chief who had gone through the old Electrical school and was a capable Electrician. I got to learn a lot from him and by the time I finished my contract I felt like I had become a good enough Electrician.
I am afraid when these guys who had proper Electrical training retire, what will happen to the fleet ? This problem is very rampant in the Navy for almost every discipline.
If the Navy really tried to replace helm and watch time with DVD courseware, they are in trouble. How do you teach a cadet how to get used to fading light and natural night vision via a 30min lesson?
Kind of related: http://www.yachtingworld.com/blogs/elaine-bunting/comment-ho...
A professional navigator put a Volvo Ocean Race boat onto a
reef, due mostly to not looking at paper charts.
Replacing training in natural light with a set of DVDs solves this problem nicely.
Have instructions in the video to dim the screen?
So why would a deck watch officer not want to call the captain? Well if the captain refuses to ever admit to being wrong, chews people out for tiny things, tells people not to disturb them, or overall doesnt support their junior members then people become less worried about safety and more worried about covering their ass. A lack of training, crew fatigue and bad command end up with bad decisions being made, and when bad decisions are made at that scale people can die.
It's a really great, short read that I'd highly recommend and gives some more background into the operational issues with the Navy.
Stating clearly: "I am pushing my commits to production", or even trivial stuff like "I am feeding the cats".
You (a) get a chance to realize if that's a stupid thing to do,(b) get to notice if your action doesn't match your stated intent, and (c) have a better chance of remembering that you did it. It really helps me, particularly when there's a lot going on to distract you.
See also the Japanese train guards and drivers, who point at stuff they are attending to, even when no one is looking.
cd /; sudo rm -rf *<cr>
Longtime USN Surface Warfare Officer here: I can assure you that this is Rule #1 in the Navy as well.
The Fitzgerald collision, however, is a real mystery...
That does not seem like the context in which you would want to not telegraph maneuvers. Either way it's still a training and culture issue if they can't recognize the difference between the two contexts.