Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Value of the Military’s Skill Set – Part V

Part V - Collateral Duties Index to the Series: Part I: Initiative, marketing, sales, project planning and program management skills Part II: Auditing Skills Part III: Operations 24/7/365 Part IV: “Point Papers” Part V: Collateral Duties Part VI: The “Git ‘er done!” Factor Part VII: “Total Care” Part VIII: Communications in the Workplace Part IX: "Give a smart person with potential a chance" Part X: Process Engineering, Continuous Improvement, Total Quality Management, Total Quality Leadership, or what ever you call it. The bottom line title: Making “it” better Part XI: The Military's Supply System Part XII: “Red Blood or Red Ink” Part XIII: Constructive Plagerism Military operations require many tasks, yet the luxury of bringing along the manpower “overhead” is not usually the case. To allow for that, the Navy gave the name of piling on assignments of “Collateral Duties” (yes, pretty close to the term “collateral damage”). The particular purpose in bringing up this topic is general education for both potential employers, as well as ex-service members. Civilian employers don’t usually understand this concept, and service members don’t think to bring it up, since these collateral duties just become second nature, and they fail to highlight that they have, in many cases, significant experience in other professional areas, which would be excellent complimenting skills to their intended employment. The range and scope of these extra assignments cover a broad swath of professional areas. Many are assigned to the service member because it needs to get done, and, in some cases, they have no experience in the area at all. They may be formal schools available, but not always accessible, the experience level of people who have held these duties, in addition to the main job they have had, is usually quite extensive in the “roll up your sleeves and go for it” arena. In almost every case, there is an instruction in a binder on the shelf that covers the requirements of the job, required reports, appropriate forms, and who to contact in the command structure for assistance. A key feature of these collateral duties are that they serve the needs of the entire unit, not just the division or department the service member is assigned. A resulting management issue that arises is the unit commanders issue direction to an officer, or enlisted member several steps down the chain of command in many cases. As a junior officer (see duties listed below), I regularly interacted with the captain and executive officer, being tasked directly by them, and reporting back, around my department head. I was blessed with a good command climate, where this worked pretty well, with few conflicts in my tasking, and those were easily worked out. I mention this, because it was my first experience operating in a matrix style management scheme, which gave me an appreciation of the requirements to keep my direct boss informed of the direction I had received, and also to report status of jobs regularly to him, so he could answer the CO and XO, as well. On my first assignment as an Ensign (O-1), I had a long list of collateral things to do. Besides being assigned to manage the Operations Specialists and Electronics Technicians, I had my shipboard watch assignments for underway and import conditions. Those were the top level, expected portions of the “position description.” From here the list begins. I’ll list it just for illustrative purposes, as best I can recall: Helicopter Control Officer Landing Signal Officer Legal Officer Public Affairs Officer Cruise Book Officer (published to document a 6 month overseas deployment, much like a yearbook from high school) Alternate Communications Management Security Custodian Collateral Duty Intelligence Officer (CDIO) Intelligence Photography Officer Intelligence Publication Custodian Top Secret Material Custodian Secret Material Custodian Registered Mail Custodian Navy Wide Exam Custodian I know there were a few more, but those ones did require a significant amount of time to complete. In other assignments, I was a Safety Officer, Electrical Safety Officer, Heat Stress and Hearing Protection Officer, Command Managed Equal Opportunity Officer, Classified Material Security Officer, and Physical Security Officer. There are laundry lists of many other “jobs” I either escaped, or I never was in a position to have to hold them. The number of added areas of responsibility was much longer for junior officers when I left the service. I knew I had plenty to do, and their lists by the mid-90s were much longer. As you can see from the list of additional requirements I worked, they cover a rather eclectic span of disciplines. An experienced officer or senior enlisted person who comes to apply for a job with you will have a similar list of duties they fulfilled, while having their primary duties. Take a few minutes to ask them what collateral assignments they had, you may well find skills and knowledge in their backgrounds they would never have been able to fit one their resumes.

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