Commentary by Lt. Col. Eric Dorminey
22nd Space Operations Squadron commander
Too often it has been said we need to, “get in there and make things happen.” I suggest such a perspective has the high potential to waste the already constrained efforts and resources of an already stressed work force. What we need to focus on is making the right things happen and therefore expend resources and effort effectively. But how do we ensure we are making the right things happen?
Every member of the Schriever family is a leader… a leader is charged to make decisions everyday about how you and those you are responsible for are going to accomplish the assigned task. How are you making that decision? Are you applying the right criteria to make sure your decision is effective? Are you deciding to just make something happen, or make the right things happen?
Allow me to give you a few considerations to assist in making the right things happen.
First, is the decision within your authority to make? If not, find the person with the proper authority and present the issue, but never just point at the problem. Always provide a solution, recommendation and alternatives along with the problem. Why, because you are most likely closest to the problem and are best positioned to know the detailed consequences of the options. Your supervisor won’t know the details like you do. Help your boss make an effective decision by sharing your expertise. Even if the decision is counter to your recommendation because they often have to balance many competing requirements, you can be satisfied that your boss understood the impacts before the decision was made.
If the decision is within your authority, take responsibility and make the decision. Sounds simple but too many times folks either fail to realize they have the authority, choose to ignore the issue, or try to make it someone else’s problem. Problems rarely solve themselves and usually only get worse with time. Take the initiative and make the decision.
Is your decision moral, ethical and legal? These three are the basis for any good decision. You will never arrive at the correct solution if you violate any of them.
Is your decision in the best interest of the mission? It’s always about the mission. We live in a constrained resources environment. If your decision isn’t in the best interest of the mission, you are wasting resources. Consider also the mission outside your immediate work center. While changing a procedure within your section may appear more effective, the consequences to others may outweigh the benefit to you. Simply shuffling work between work centers isn’t more effective nor is it better for the mission. In fact, it is quite the opposite and is often the result of simply “making something happen.”
Is your decision in line with your supervisor’s vision? Failure to put the organization’s direction in your analysis runs the risk of expending resources that don’t advance the cause and getting crossways with your boss. We all know we are expected to work our boss’s agenda. The decisions you make are where the rubber meets the road with this expectation. Working the boss’s agenda isn’t simply doing what he/she asks; it’s about making decisions that advance their vision. If you don’t understand the vision, ask. Your understanding is vital to effective decision making.
Finally, make your decision timely. Careful though…this criteria is a double edged sword. Timely doesn’t necessarily mean right now. Your decision needs to be made in time to be effectively implemented but not so quick as to leave out relevant data. In all but the most extreme circumstances, taking time to understand the situation, consider the broader implications and evaluate the likely unintended consequences (there is almost always a positive and negative side to every decision) will prevent jumping in and “making something happen” instead of making the right things happen. If you can delay a decision without adversely impacting the execution and the delay will result in better data on which to base the decision, then delay. If not, make your decision on what you have and execute. Keep in mind however that you will never have perfect data. An 80 percent solution executed now is far better than a 100 percent solution executed too late.
These criteria have guided me in effectively directing the limited resources I find in my charge. If applied correctly and consistently, they will assist you as you make wise decisions on where your resources are spent.
…now go out there and make the right things happen!