Thursday, 13 August 2009

How to Play Nuke Poker

It was probably one of the ten best ideas of the past decade that occurred today. Iran….mighty Iran….said that they have this proposal that they are ready to push and run with. They intend to meet up with the UN, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The idea? Ban any military strike on any nuke facility, of any type. Brilliant idea….absolutely brilliant.

Iran says this idea….to seek a worldwide ban….would be a “a matter of principle."

The curious thing is that just about every environmental group on the face of the earth would push this quickly up to the top and agree that military strikes on any nuke facility would just be plain stupid and cause health issues for decades to come. It wouldn’t matter if it was true or not.
Iran is correct….they could probably get this passed within twelve months easily. The question is….would someone….of any nature, whether the US or Israel act before it passes? That’s the only real question here.

So I paused here a while. It's a great what could the US do? Well....we'd smile at the UN conference and then say fine....label the exact site of operations for nukes on a map and we won't hit that site listed. At that point, the Iranian guy is going to scratch his head. He's likely got five or six places he doesn't want to mention. So he can only put one or two down....and the rest he has to keep his mouth shut. In the end, we'd still have the game in our favor.

"Dead Horse" Management

Earlier this week….the topic of “Dead Horses” came up. Unless you work in management or planning….you never really grasp the meaning of a “Dead Horse”. At some point around eight years ago…we had some guy email around this commentary about “Dead Horse” episodes.

This conversation started up when someone came to some Dakota Indian wisdom which says when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

This brought a bunch of Air Force guys for about a year to utilize this wisdom in various strategy sessions and reorganizational efforts.

Eventually, someone in the Air Force started talking about how Air Force leaders typically fix a “Dead Horse” situation:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Try changing riders.
3. Saying things like: "This is the way we always have ridden this horse."
4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
6. Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
7. Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse.
8. Creating a training session to increase our riding ability.
9. Comparing the state of dead horse in today's environment.
10. Change the requirements declaring that "This horse is not dead."
11. Hire contractors to ride the dead horse.
12. Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.
13. Declaring that "No horse is too dead to beat."
14. Providing additional funding to increase the horse's performance.
15. Do a CA Study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
16. Purchase a product to make dead horses run faster.
17. Declare the horse is "better, faster, and cheaper" dead.
18. Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
19. Revisit the performance requirements for horses.
20. Say this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.
21. Promote the dead horse to a Senior Manager position.

So this gets passed around as conventional wisdom amongst program managers and real leaders in the Air Force. Eventually, I pondered upon this a while, and built up my own list of “Dead Horse” situations. In my shop, we are a bit unique. We needed special features over “Dead Horses”. So my own personal list went like this:

1. Open a base communications trouble-ticket and hope the dead horse project gets consumed by some confused planning team associated with base communications.

2. Start a life-cycle plan upon notification of the dead horse project and use FY10 plans to replace it.

3. Perform a 12-page questionnaire to determine if the “Dead Horse” project is really a problem that we should work on.

4. Work on a MOA on whether it was our dead horse project or another organization’s dead horse project, and who will be responsible for upkeep of the “Dead Horse” project.

5. Discuss ways to avoid a Report of Survey on the “Dead Horse” horse project, and if we can simply wait six months to actually report it dead.

6. Task the engineers to recertify the “Dead Horse” project as “non-op” and await parts…forever.

7. Arrange for a 5-day off-site for our shop at the Edelweiss resort in Bavaria to discuss the “Dead Horse” issue and what ought to be done.

8. Request $60k from our commander for a “Dead Horse” lifecycle issue, which results in a feasibility study, cost analysis, and POM planning.

9. Request all personnel in the organization perform an inventory of all “Dead Horse” projects…to see if anyone lacks a dead horse project.

10. Ship the “Dead Horse” project to NGA in a box marked "classified maps for destruction".

11. Request a migration plan from the base communications folks on “Dead Horse” projects, and wait until this can be contracted out.

Every Air Force guy has a “Dead Horse” story. I knew a guy who carried a potential “Dead Horse” project in his hands for 18 months, complete with full planning and budget numbers, and then finally….the plan was killed before it ever started….because it was simply obsolete. We knew from day one…it probably never would fly, but still, you can’t refuse a “Dead Horse” project.

Someone told me once of a plan within a unit in the states….where a huge amount of a building was going to be renovated. The unit had purposely designed it in a very unique way and had various electrical, communications and AC features built into this design. Half-way to the finish….some other unit made a grab for the building. They convinced the Wing Commander to give them this building, without much grasp over what enhancements were being designed into the building. So they got the building and a month later….as the final touches were being done….the unit did the full walk of the building. It really didn’t work for their operation. Months were spent in complaining about the layout of the building, but it didn’t matter.

Here on Ramstein, a unit came to grab a building and did almost $250k worth of renovation to the small building. When they came to me and suggested everything….I asked how many people they intended to bring along…..36. At best, the building might have held 18 in a decent fashion and maybe 24 if you really pushed it. I suggested their plan was flawed. They disagreed. They paid almost $70k for specialized furniture to fit the 36 people in the place. From day one, they all complained…just too tight…too close. Four months later, eight folks were moved out. Four months after that group, came the second group of twelve folks who moved out. Today, five years later, at best, there are maybe fifteen in this building. The building became a “Dead Horse”.

Here on the north side of Ramstein, there is a building adjacent to the post office. It was a MWR dining facility….mostly chicken and chilli….4-star variety. The base suddenly terminated the facility and did a $150k enhancement project. New roof, new doors, new heat, etc. The German post office was moved in and the German cable TV guys. It was supposed to organize things. The BX got into this mess and talked the German TV guys into moving out within 90 days….to the BX. Then the German post office announced about eighteen months later that there wasn’t enough business to run it….so they closed them down. The building is today a storage building for the northside post office. Total waste of planning and effort….a “Dead Horse”.

The truth of the matter is that we need “Dead Horse” projects, because we need to appreciate when things work right. These are lessons in life, management, and planning. The sad thing is that you tend to see too many “Dead Horses”.

I had someone once suggest that we need a Kentucky Derby of “Dead Horses”….to liven up things. I looked at the guy for about twenty seconds….thinking I needed a shot or two of Jacky D’s and then thought that this would just bring tears to some Colonel somewhere….being a judge in a contest and admiring such “Dead Horses”.

My two cents on “Dead Horses”.