The daily and weekly grind is where the rubber meets the road as an AFRICA OSC. Tossing aside the aspects of small unit leadership in your office, and merely looking at the systems you have in place to track, organize, and coordinate your office – what methods work best for your office? This short post is about organizational leadership and a few best practices you could put in place to synchronize all the different and individual events happening in the AFRICA OSC office.
The life of an AFRICA OSC sometimes can be consumed by the bureaucracy of each of the events going on. Receive the invite, notify the partner nation, wait for the nomination, test for language skills, work travel arrangements, and jump through a lot of things to get someone at the right place at the right time. Oh, the work it takes just to get someone there!
The key to bureaucracy is not to create more bureaucracy. Sometimes it is best to just go with the flow; other times it might be better to fight the tide, but with suggestions on how to improve it. You must understand as an AFRICA OSC that the majority of these systems are coded in law and have been around for numerous decades on both sides – the US and your partner nation. It is your job to translate our systems into your partner nation’s systems, policies, and deduce where the two conflict and how best to solve that. More often than not, words matter.
In Africa they do not speak American English; instead, they speak French, high English (UK), Arabic, Somali, etc. It is critical to review the official letters that go out from your office to the partner nation and ensure that your locally employed staff members (who are not fluent in English) are not translating words the wrong way. One wrong translation can make for many awkward situations. As most of your letters may go to the Chief of Defense or even the Minister of Defense, it is always best to have another American look over a letter. Ensuring your message is translated correctly, saves time in the long run in the exchange of potential misunderstandings. More often than not, more information with more clarifications is always better.
Why is it important to have weekly meetings as an AFRICA OSC? You work in close spaces next to each other and talk daily. Weekly meetings are a vital statute of small unit leadership. Stay away from multiple sessions, as they detract from the intent of providing guidance. You are a leader as an OSC, a leader of a small office of highly qualified personnel. Therefore, a weekly meeting is purposeful for many reasons: you can distribute country team notes, distribute guidance from the Senior Defense Official, go through your own records and advice, and lastly provide a collective atmosphere to build a team. Finally, weekly meetings give each person a platform to project their concerns, opinions, etc. This is always helpful in a small unit. It is also useful in identifying those members who are not capable of working in a small group – which should lead you towards a role of mentorship, counseling, and firing.
Tools of the trade
How do you manage all these events that are going on? Well, when I was an OSC, I’ll admit I didn’t quite have an understanding of all the people and events that were going on. I signed a lot of papers, but I never stopped and looked at names and places and thought about whether or not I knew them. This was a mistake I made. If anyone is going anywhere on the US’s dime, get to know them. Often times we think internal business is more important than external; which is wrong. As an AFRICA OSC, you are representative of the Combatant Commander, that role should always be first and foremost. Engaging is the most important thing you can do, and then relaying that back to the CCMD is the second most important thing you can do. Set priorities, and explain to your leaders when you don’t meet the third and fourth most important things you must do, like not answering an email or doing some online training. Be advised that they more than likely don’t understand your perspective, so time management is key.
Trackers: I’ve made a million excel spreadsheets in my life as a military officer. Some have been simple, and other were so complex only I could understand. Neither of these is good examples of what an AFRICA OSC tracker should be. Below is an excellent example of an OSC tracker that can help produce a useful weekly meeting with your OSC office. I caution you that the more you add to it, the less it adds. Sometimes, well most often than not, trackers are conversation pieces. They create a conversation that people can talk about the facts on the tracker.
How do the people in your office think? The reason some “trackers” work in some offices and not in others is singularly a human issue. People think in different ways, and they work in different ways. You must adjust any product you produce internally towards how your team works. If you try to enforce your will on them with one particular type of format you desire, it more than likely will backfire. How you think, is not necessarily how your team feels. Leave a broad space in the tracker for notes, and then allow everyone to make their individual notes there. I’ve found that less is more, more often than not.
More specifically: One great tracker with all the E2 difficulties I have seen is the one below.
Weekly meetings, trackers, etc. these are things that all businesses do and all military organizations do as well. The key here is to adjust them to your small team and your partner nation. You should share this with your CCMD personnel, but don’t expect them to understand everything fully.
Overall, to be successful as an AFRICA OSC you need to manage things daily, weekly, and personally. The essence of small unit leadership is the daily part, especially because the days will go by so fast as an AFRICA OSC.