Friday, May 30, 2014

saturdays in sakhalin: in search of balance

Another Saturday, another day in the office. Of course, my employment contract does stipulate working 6 days per week, so my presence in the office today is perfectly normal, even expected. The real issue is what happens tomorrow. Another Sunday, another day in the office? Probably yes. We have still not gotten the staffing situation to the level it really needs to be at and it wears on everyone else as a result. I have been in this situation before. In the short-term, people can power through and operate like this for a few months. In the long-run, this is not sustainable. Not just for me (though I really don't ever worry about myself in this sense), but rather for the people who work lateral and below me. I am a shepherd of of sorts, though no biblical analogies are intended. This is what managing is though: tending to your staff, developing them, making sure the work is getting done, offering support, and every so often you lose people, sometimes at their own volition and sometimes at your own volition. I know I can only push people so hard before something gives. I have often wondered how hard I can be pushed. Very hard is my answer from experience, but my most difficult assignments have also been relatively short. I can sustain the pace for roughly a year so that's what I know I can do, but a single year is not a long-term solution. However, I have come to (somewhat) jokingly say that there are never the right number of employees. Either we have too many people relative to activity and revenue and need to transfer people out or we have too few people. We never have "Goldilocks" staffing levels because something is always changing. Thus, the only balance is dynamic, like moving back and forth to keep a pendulum balanced above its pivot.

Friday, May 23, 2014

saturdays in sakhalin: where winter just won't let go

I arrived back in Sakhalin a couple of weeks ago and the snow had melted, the air was warm (or at least warm-ish) and I even ran the AC one night. It looked like Spring had arrived. Nope, not even close. The next weekend, a storm rolled through town, cold enough to make me consider bringing the long underwear back into the wardrobe rotation. The storm even dumped some snow up on the top of the nearby mountains, though all we got at town-level was wind and bitterly cold sideways rain. Being the stubborn person I am, I have yet to purchase an umbrella and my decision has not left my too terribly soaked yet. (Hey, I made it through rainy season in Gabon without an umbrella so it'll take a lot more than that to force my hand now.) Since the storm, the weather has been holding relatively steady just above freezing and with enough wind thrown in that it cancels some of the chopper flights up north. This isn't a problem in town, but it really messes up the offshore work.

For now, I am waiting to see when Winter will release its grip. It needs to be soon since we are headed into "Summer Projects" season, a time of uninsulated shipping containers, surface work free of sea ice, and platform maintenance. All this is contingent on non-freezing temperatures or else we're going to have some problems.