Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mine, Mine, Mine

At work, my computer, sits on my desk, next to my phone in my Office. When I am not there, no one sits in my office, no one dials out on my phone, no one sits at my desk, and no one uses my computer. It's not because I am territorial, it's just the way things are. For some reason, it's not only OK that these resources sit there doing nothing, it is expected.

At the command in which I work, we are responsible for running the very same Command Programs (Mentorship, Physical Readiness, Safety, etc) as the hundreds of other Navy Commands. In the execution of these programs, work is repeatedly duplicated within each franchise.

In my storage shed, I have numerous tools and countless home improvement supplies that I have no plans to use anytime in the near future (I really enjoy condo living). But, they sit in boxes collecting dust, anxiously awaiting an opportunity to build/fix something (should that day come).

Each day, I walk by the bike rack in our parking garage only to see the same 100+ rarely used bikes that were once "Must Have" purchases, as they continue to grow rust.

In the virtual world, we talk of "The Cloud", networked peripherals, shared software licensing, and the like. Why is it that we feel compelled to make sole proprietorship our model of choice in the physical world, yet are so quick to share resources in the virtual world?

Do we really need our own power saw if I use it 30 minutes a year? Do we really need our own swimming pool when there is a community pool down the road? Does everyone on the block really need their own lawn mower? Why does each Navy command run identical programs in isolation without sharing best practices and pooling resources?

In the physical world, we are clearly addicted to maximizing individual capacity, personal ownership and material accumulation. I can't help but think about how different this world would be if we went out of our way to create interdependencies vice duplication...

...where we actually look forward to leaning on our neighbors
...where we increase collective capacity by decreasing duplication
...where we decrease waste by sharing material goods

As football season nears, I can't help but see parallels. A quarterback needs to throw well, but a left tackle need not spend any time increasing his passing accuracy. A wide receiver needs to catch well and run fast, while a placekicker doesn't need to do either. Coaches don't spend time growing the same skills in all four players, they deliberately grow specialized expertise to enhance complimentary skill sets for the collective good. In essence, they acknowledge the game's interdependencies and tailor individual capabilities to maximize overall productivity.

True neighbors need not fill their sheds in duplicative fashion and commands truly interested in working together need not grow the same capability through exacting investment of time, training, and personnel. If we were more interested in increasing collective capacity vice duplicating redundant capacity within our personal silo, imagine how much better we would be.

Many of us who experienced a childhood without computers in our house blame the same for creating what many perceive to be a disconnected generation (i.e. virtual interaction vice physical presence). Before we argue that opinion next time, maybe we should take an inventory of our tool shed, look at our collection of material goods we rarely use, and consider the Shipmate working at another command doing the very job we are (yet never call to exchange ideas). We may just realize that we are in fact the ones promoting a disconnected model.

Personally, I believe that the "disconnected" youth of today, will make connecting our physical world the priority we clearly have not. Why not give them a running start?

By the way, if you need a power saw, a drill or many of the other tools I have "just in case", please let me know, I am more than happy to share.


  1. Nice post Sean. Interestingly, the information age offers a great opportunity to share resources and many collaboration/sharing sites have grown on social networks for just that purpose. Neighborhood bulletin boards in our neighborhood on 'Yahoo' provide great sources of 'shared resources' from generators to shovels and every power tool imaginable. You're right, we don't have to own everything. Same is true with the way the cryptologic community developed the DIRSUP pools around the world so every ship, sub and aircraft didn't have to have CTs permanently assigned. As you know better than MOST, sharing is great.

  2. Great points. The DIRSUP pool is a fine example of sharing resources (in that instance our most precious ones). It was a model focused on optimizing the outcome (i.e. highly trained experts sharing their HDLD skills) and realized efficiencies in the process. Now that efficiency is the driver, I can't help but think the effectiveness is diminished. During my last Fleet tour we were turning the corner where "team continuity" and having "my guys" was trumping "just in time" highly qualified augmentation. I hope we turned back. Part of sharing resources is maintaining them while they are sitting idle. No one wants to borrow a broken generator. No one can afford to rely on a poorly trained CT.