Procedures, and form over function

I imagined that when I joined the military it would involve some degree of getting bad guys. Didn’t happen; at least not directly. Commercials are just commercials. I spend a large chunk of my time with Outlook, PowerPoint, and meetings.

On PowerPoint, the other day, my buddy in operations had to put together a slide of who’s going on a particular task. The task required representatives from each section. And he used a chart that outlined the positions from the last time we did the task. This time, he just needed names to fill in the spaces in the table, the chart.

Well, it was very short notice – like, only a couple hours turnaround. And from my quick analysis, my section isn’t sending anyone. With good reason, which I gave to him.

Additionally, if we must, we’ll have to outsource, so to speak; we’ll need to pull from some other part of the unit to represent my section. If we aren’t allowed to do that, then I had a couple names but they wouldn’t be ideal. Both guys just got here. I didn’t even know their full names.

I said, look, my officer-in-charge (OIC) wants to brief the battalion commander by exception; meaning, the slides won’t precisely match what we need to tell the boss.


This upset my buddy.

One, there were five rows highlighted in red that represented my section.

Two, the two names I could give at that moment, weren’t enough to fit the format of his slide. I knew their ranks and names. I didn’t know their first names. The slide demanded first names.


Third, do we really need all that info? Eventually, sure, but not for the purpose of this task.

There were additional columns after name – rank, contact info, position to be filled by MOS (military occupational specialty)…

He asked, annoyed, “And what exactly will Private [So-and-so] be doing?” Meaning, given the slots depicted, the rank of Private wasn’t on there.

I was like, paraphrased, “Dude, let my OIC explain that. We’re coordinating supplies, transportation, and maintenance. And just for our small team. Private [So-and-so] be writing emails, making phone calls, and filling out forms.”


Looks matter. It’s not just him. It’s almost everyone. To include his boss. So, I understand his concern. It’s important that his slides look good.

Even if they aren’t totally his slides, in that the information gets pulled from sources outside of his section. In many ways, he’s only the messenger.

But we all know that being the messenger implies greater responsibility for the message than warranted.

We’re forgetting the goal. It’s the goal that matters.

In this particular task, we just needed to give the boss an idea of who’s going and to share with him that we’re still looking, and will find someone soon enough.