Sunday, March 27, 2011

imperfect handovers, no promises

The work handover is part business, part science, part art and always imperfect. Short of keeping a hyper-detailed log of everything you have ever done at a location AND having your successor (or equivalent) read the entire thing, you will never fully convey all the little nuances of the location that you have picked up during your time. Of course the big points are discussed and we review the 'greatest hits', but the minutiae of day-to-day life is much more subtle.

The broad strokes of what needs to go into a handover should be pretty much the same everywhere (at least in a service-side company):
* Who are your clients and what do they expect?
* Who are your employees who will work to meet those client expectations?
* What resources (other than people) are available?
* What are we actually doing and delivering right now?

While each of those are rather broad questions, they form the basic theme of what you need to know in order to properly manage the business. Everything else is details. So many details.

I've learned to accept the fact that I will generally receive a below average handover. This has helped me understand the importance of figuring out the answers to the questions I have posed above. It has also forced me to rely on my own instincts and assessments instead of blindly trusting the notes I am being handed. (Ironically enough, I have created rather detailed notes for this transfer out and fully expect them to be read and dislike questions that are answered in my notes.) I had a rough go at this when I was in Texas and learned a lot about the accuracy of my own assessments (generally good) and the dangers of bias that notes from a predecessor on an employee can give you. I shall dub this bias the "zeroth impression" as it can precede the first impression that an employee actually gets to make with you.

Nonetheless, even knowing that there is much you do not know, it is difficult to get a proper handle on what is happening and what people are doing. Pity the new guy who everyone will take advantage of.
1. "But [insert previous manager name] promised me [usually rather ridiculous something]."
2. "The previous manager had it out for me."

Both might actually be true to varying degrees. I don't exactly have it out for anyone, but I am drawing the line with one person in particular and don't want to go soft on the personnel evaluation just because I am leaving. Line drawn, grade finalized, take notice and I hope this is a wake-up call to improve performance. (Personally, it is slightly disappoint to leave at this moment since I will not get to follow-through with this person).

The varying promises that people say they have been made fall into two different groups. The first is the lie; the promise that was never made. Ferreting those out is sometimes difficult because of the obfuscation caused by promise type number two: The ridiculous 'I'm-outta-here-so-of-course-you-can-have-that' promise made by the outgoing manager who just doesn't care anymore. I do my best to counter this by telling employees when they come to discuss personnel, personal, career, and generally anything related to non-day-to-day tasks that I will make no promises and will not honor a previous manager's promises. I am not in a position and do not have enough authority to ensure promises can be kept so I will not make anyone any promises. What we will do is make a plan, document it, and do our best to keep it. What we will not do is promise transfers, promotions, deals, etc. We will plan and execute. We will not always be successful, but we will know that we tried.

strike averted, or so i've been told

I have been told the strike has been averted. Whoop dee doo. Looks like tomorrow will bring another gripping day where locals get off at 3:30 PM.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

strike notification

ONEP, which is the umbrella union organization for oilfield employees in Gabon sent out a strike notification this past Monday. The demands center around the classic issues of local employment and compensation. For this particular notification, the government is rapidly running out of time to meet the union's demands before the strike starts this coming Monday in two days. If the strike notification goes through, then all oilfield-related activity will pretty much cease. I am not sure if all employees are in the union or just the field-related personnel. Either way, activity will stop and I might be working from home by Monday.

In order to avoid a strike, the government must issue a decree addressing the amount of expatriate labor allowed in the country. The target is 90% local content in the industry. Reality is falling quite a bit short of that figure. Like many of the countries in this part of the world, it's largely a matter of qualified personnel. Work ethic is also an issue, especially for Gabon, as it is much easier to find dedicated people in other nearby countries than to find them in Gabon.

Time is short and I am not sure I feel very strongly about this either way. Regardless of what happens, my own plans will not change and I will not really be the one left to pick up the pieces and get activity to resume. I am not sure when I am leaving or if the strike will interrupt fuel deliveries, though basic services are supposed to continue functioning. I think the union is clever enough to realize that a general shutdown of utilities will not endear them to the general population.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I am not sure why my Zune interest has not gone away, but I am still thinking about getting one. And a new laptop that would not be a MacBook of any type. It would at least be unique, right?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

on staying in touch

I'm pretty bad about staying in touch with people. This makes me somewhat curious about whether I do the whole family and friendship thing right. I'm out here, in the wind so-to-speak, and a long way from everyone else. I have all the modern tools for staying in touch, but vastly under-utilize them because for me, the rest of the world is very much 'out of sight, out of mind'.

Don't get me wrong, for the most part, I feel like when I'm back "home" that I can pick up right where I left off and everything feels comfortable. If someone asked me for a favor, within a pretty broad range of reasonableness, I would probably not hesitate to help if I had the ability. But there's a long in-between time when I am not around and when I am not around, all that pauses in my head and when I come back, it's like I have not changed much. However, I am fully aware everyone is busy living their lives and getting engaged/married or doing whatever it is people with more traditional lifestyles do with their time. It's actually been quite surprising, though I should know better, to see so many friends (presumably) enter into the last romantic relationship of their lives.

Like my last post, this isn't going anywhere in particular. It's just an observation about myself and how I interact (or don't) with people. Just remember that I do remember you even if it doesn't seem like it. And I would go a long way for friends and family if in need.


I have a pseudo-doppelganger at work. By "at work" I mean one of the 100,000+ people who also work for the same publicly traded company as myself. And by "pseudo-doppelganger" I mean he shares both my first and last name (but not my middle name) though he looks nothing like me unless I have become a middle-aged white guy. This does explain why I have been receiving rather odd e-mails from what the directory has shown to be one of his colleagues. This entry is pointless.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

cargo traffic

I find it interesting that out of the world's ten busiest busiest cargo airports, the ones in the U.S. are not major passenger hubs, but the ones overseas are all major passenger airports. We have successfully moved the heaviest of the cargo traffic out of the passenger hubs.


Perhaps it was the post-tender fatigue finally catching up with me, but today was horribly unproductive. Yes, I traipsed from meeting to meeting and sent many e-mails, but had no focus and very little energy all day long.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

winds of change

I have accepted a transfer to somewhere further afield than where I am now. Perhaps it depends on how we measure farness of afieldness, but it will be a four plane journey at a minimum from SFO to the location.

As always, there is business to wrap up and visas to apply for before I leave, but the wheels are already in motion. Also like always, there will be unfinished business here to be entrusted with the most capable hands available. I think everything will be fine and we are perhaps not accomplishing everything we wanted to, but we are getting all the main pieces in place for a successful future.

The visas will take time so there is a good chance I spend a couple weeks back home before I move. If so, I'll keep everyone posted.

on the wagon?

True to form, I massively neglected my blogging duties while stamping out some mini-fires at work. Unfortunately, one of the fires was a paper bag filled with dog poop so it became a mess. Everything is as under control as can be expected so now it's time for sleep, e-mail catch-up (work, not personal), paper pushing, and general packing up. More on that last one in my next post.