Data demons infiltrate the Coast Guard

Sam Smith

Having been a Coast Guard officer with a number of petty officers working for me, I was startled when another former Coastie sent me a copy of a five page Enlisted Employee Review Worksheet of the sort I would have to fill out numerous times if I were currently on the job.

As I recall, my employee reviews consisted of saying something to the captain like, “You know Bill’s fucking good and deserves a promotion.”

The reason I didn’t have to say much more than that was that both the captain and I knew that Bill was fucking good, having seen him doing his work day to day, or a hundred miles at sea during a heavy weather rescue, or watching him helping get a buoy on station. Our Coasties did real things with real results and you didn’t need a whole mess of adjectives and abstractions to judge them.

But now the data demons have taken over the Hooligan Navy along with just about everything else in America and so I would now be required to:

“After observing and gathering input on member’s performance and behavior, evaluate member’s performance against the written performance standards and place an “X” within the appropriate oval. Give form with recommended marks and written comments to the Marking Official within the time frames specified in the CG Personnel Manual.”

I would set about making carefully filled in marks (no partially filled circles)  next to such assessments as:

“Made good use of available personnel and their skills. Materials, budget, tools, equipment, and publications effectively used. Supported new approaches, methods, or technologies. Met all customer needs.”

[We didn’t have any customers when I was in the Coast Guard; we just had citizens]

“Used all personnel and their skills to capacity in a positive working environment. Sought out better ways to accomplish tasks. Developed new methods or approaches.”..

“Handled stressful situations well. Worked extra hours as required to get the job done. Productivity and safety were adequate.”

Five pages of this sort of crap can make you a bit dizzy and leave you feeling like you’re working for a insurance company or a chain store rather than the Coast Guard.

Worse – and this is true every place that demonic data collection is taking place – to process this junk you must waste money employing people who have no true useful skills to offer the organization and who take time and money away from those who do. The data demons don’t provide a positive working environment, they don’t find better ways to accomplish tasks, they don’t provide productive and safety. They just create piles of paper and hours of wasted time.

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