Dairy products in the sun

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Stephen "Curse" Platt
  • 39th Operations Squadron commander
When given the assignment to write for the Incirlik community, besides noting the timing relative to St. Valentine's Day, I noted the increasing pace of inspections Team Incirlik faces this spring and summer. With this in mind, I thought back to a boss I had a few years back who told me, "Curse, bad news ages like a dairy product in the sun." His point was that a little extra time is not going to miraculously turn bad news into something good--excise the demons and get the bad news out there so we can all begin to find a solution. I tell my folks to let me know early and often when a particular dairy product is beginning to spoil.

The way I handle receiving bad news has evolved over time. When I was a young pup, I usually began with the four rules of a crisis situation: 1) act surprised, 2) show concern, 3) deny everything, and 4) shift blame. While immediately providing relief for the deliverer of that particular gem of bad news, I find this strategy to fall a little short in execution.

One of my favorite squadron commanders once told me, "Never believe the first thing you hear, particularly when it is bad news." His example led me to shed my four rules outlined above and adopt a more constructive approach to crisis management. Now when bad things happen, I gather data, not anecdotes, as quickly as possible. I then try to develop a few courses of action (COAs) and briefly outline the pros and cons of each. Before I go to the next level, I want to have a plan, not just a problem. The idea here is that the person delivering the news nominally has some level of expertise in that area, and your next level supervisor, if wise, will rely heavily on your assessment of the situation and your suggested way forward.

This next step is important, so pay attention. You have already characterized the problem, outlined the fallout, provided the suggested solutions with their impacts-good and bad, and finally argued for the proposed solution. Now, support the informed decision made by your boss and move out smartly. While this last step is not always the most satisfying if your suggested COA wasn't chosen, you should be satisfied that you identified a problem early, before it got ugly, gave a variety of solutions and that the problem is being addressed for resolution.

Team Incirlik will find dairy products as we roll through the spring. It's only going to get hotter, in actuality, as well as metaphorically. When you find a problem, jump on it like a duck on a June bug, develop effective ways to solve the problem, inform your boss and move out.

Oh, and don't forget St. Valentine's Day. It's tomorrow.