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For context: I'm an Army Officer and I spent most of my time in Civil Affairs, the international relations arm of the military. I'm doing a series of lessons learned and how they can apply broadly to EA.

Think about how many barriers there are to access in your organization

Broadly, when I run something, even if it's a little part of a big picture, I want it to run smoothly. We have a saying in the military "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." It's not just about combat though. When I think about things being smooth, I think about access.

There are all kinds of access that you need. Say that you just want to enter a building. You either need the door to be open, or to have a key of some sort. 

But who gets the key? (And who can issue the key?)

If you're the full time staffer in your organization, it's on you to make sure that the right people get the keys that they need to get into your building. But that is only one layer of access. 

Do they need to get to a certain room? Or do they need to get access to a computer? A special website?

Each of these layers of access is another barrier to things running smoothly.

When I accepted my current position, I was told that I would have most of the systems I need up and running within thirty days. This seemed to be about right. It's been nearly a year and I'm still pending two critical systems that help me get people to school and issue them orders. 

Part of this fault is institutional: The USG moves slowly, and there is only so much capacity for these two classes. 

Part of this fault is mine: Hey, I had a baby and I couldn't go when I was on paternity leave, and aren't we a family organization?

Identify these pain points, and perhaps they exist for a reason

For instance, as a young platoon leader I had about forty percent of my company that could drive a military vehicle, and routinely this meant we couldn't go anywhere. However this also meant that people that would need that training hadn't gotten it, and I was pretty glad that they weren't driving me around in a large vehicle. 

In this case, I spent all of my social capital to increase the number of drivers getting us to fifty percent. (lots of reservists who lived in NYC and didn't have a civilian drivers license was a big problem, as well as a required 40 hour in person drivers training course) For me, it was a big win. Of course since I was an Officer, I wasn't allowed to train, so when I transferred to my next position I immediately jumped at the first chance to "learn to drive".

The pain point here? Safety. But it could be something else for your org.

If we'd needed there people fit for a deployment, I would send them through a drivers training course (because that is when the USG would pay for it), but for the most part... I didn't want to cut corners on their training. 

I could have just "checked the block" on some people and signed their drivers licenses, but without the course? It would not look good. The first thing that they check when an accident happens (even a minor one) is the persons driving record. Then they would ask me some very particular questions, ones that I would not want to answer.

That is just one barrier

Just because it takes more time to get someone up to speed, it doesn't meant that that isn't or is the right or wrong way.

Now imagine, door access, cyber access, etc. Each little thing makes interacting with your organization a little harder. Make it as simple as possible and identify why there are pain points. (And who issues the keys?)

Hint: It's probably for a reason. Don't ignore the flashing warning signs.

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This was great!

Thanks for the approachable writing and specific anecdotes, it’s helpful.

This is probably my weird personal bias but maybe consider writing slightly more deeper stories, or even ornate lessons about the “system”. This would be interesting to get your perspective.

I think resource constraints are different between the EA labor pool and young military labor pool (where driver training is a major problem, as you describe), so it’s harder for me to get wisdom from anecdotes that don’t “seem deep”.

Or maybe I’m being ignorant.

Thanks again!

I like the idea. I could speak in depth about a few unclassified systems of record that seem totally mundane to me. In particular I'm itching to write a long one about OHASIS, the overseas humanitarian shared information system that we used to fund some Civil Affairs projects overseas, but I don't know that it will have a lot of carry over. (Who knows, it might?) That one is probably going to take me a few days to go over, but yeah I'll pick something and go into depth with it. 

Great! Sounds interesting!

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