Things I’ve Learned

Russ Anstey
Publication Date 
18 Mar 2016

Written by Russ Anstey,  Roofing Contracts Inspector | Real Property Operations Section (Halifax)

I’m Russ Anstey, one of two civilian Roofing Contracts Inspectors at Real Property Operations Section (Halifax). I joined the military in 1994. Since then, I’ve been stationed in Calgary, Edmonton, Moncton and Halifax, and I’ve deployed to Central Africa, the Quebec ice storm, Kosovo, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan and Kandahar.

I retired from the Regular Forces in January 2015, and I’m now one of two Roofing Contracts Inspectors. My partner, Steven Michaud, and I have implemented a preventive maintenance program for the roofs of our nearly 700 buildings. We conduct roof inspections, create Scopes of Work (SOWs) for repair or replacement, create work orders, implement repairs and minor replacements, and push major roof replacements through our Engineering Division.

Most of my time in the CAF was spent in some sort of operational unit, and I had little experience in a Construction Engineering (CE) environment before my posting to Halifax, but I’ve absorbed a lot since then. Hopefully, what I have observed, and will talk about here, will ring true. Here are some things I’ve learned …

Nearly Everyone Wants to do Good, Meaningful Work

I think, at all levels, that there is frustration with the speed of progress. We have budgets, SOPs, unit instructions, contracting rules, collective agreements, work descriptions, DOAs, QR&Os, DAODs, CETOs, MOUs … more acronyms than you can shake a stick at — not necessarily bad, but collectively, they can cause delays. There are so many good people here who are coming up with great solutions to very complex problems; on a truly massive scale. All parties want to do the best that they can do. Pride in your work is a powerful motivator, and seeing tangible results of your efforts provides genuine gratification. We are all hoping that this transformation to ADM(IE) will help to ease some of these roadblocks to progress.

Communication is the Key to Everything 

Frustration can be minimized with clear, honest communication. Knowing who to talk to is the first step, followed by knowing how to talk to them. With an organization of this size, lines of communication are sometimes blurred. There are many people in our own organization and many outside stakeholders that need to be consulted for projects to run smoothly. At the forefront, this always needs to include the end user; the people that maintain the equipment, the building, the roads, the air and the water.

They can provide valuable input about what works, what doesn’t and why. With a transient military command structure, these people are our continuity. Communication with these IE team members is invaluable and must be a high priority.

Don’t Forget to Supervise

We all get so busy with our day-to-day, dealing with large issues, that we get overwhelmed.

It’s truly daunting sometimes. But, the title of supervisor speaks for itself. It doesn’t mean that you need to be out there micromanaging your people; trust me, nobody wants that. But, you need to witness what your people are dealing with on a daily basis and help with those lines of communication. One of my biggest regrets was not getting out of the office more to see for myself what the problems were. I would have had a clearer understanding of the scope and scale of the issues that were mine to manage, and it would have given my people greater access to me, facilitating — you guessed it — communication. Being a supervisor, doesn’t mean you are an expert in everything — you can’t do it all alone. Everyone brings different skills and experiences to the table. Good supervisors listen to their team, good employees communicate their expertise.

There are Differences Between Military and Civilians

I say this not to divide, but to point out that there is a misconception among the “siblings” in the IE family about what each one brings to the table and what the expectations are for each to conduct their business. We all work under the DND umbrella, and we have many common goals.

However, the way we think and operate is different. Not better, not worse, but certainly different. And that’s OK, in fact it’s good, but we must learn one another’s motivators, and we must learn how to translate these different ways of doing business into success.

The Times, They are A-Changing

Sometimes rapidly, sometimes not fast enough. Talk to anyone that has been here for a while, and they will tell you that you wouldn’t recognize the organization from 5–10 years ago.

Go back a little further, and I’m sure that someone will also tell you that it looks exactly the same now as it did 25 years ago. What’s my point? Re-read the last half of that paragraph about communication! It’s all been done before, and there is a metric tonne of experience out there. Use it. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Just realign it!

IE has taught me a lot and, personally, I’m happy to say that I now belong to the ADM(IE) family. Our unit is already starting to see the benefits of that relationship. With ADM(IE) centralization comes a more consistently managed budget, freeing up money for infrastructure projects, and allowing us to begin working on the backlog that has been resting like a weight on our shoulders for years. Many here are holding their breath to see what this organization will look like in the coming years, but, so far, things are looking up.

As part of our ongoing effort to reflect our readers in our writing, we will profile a different ADM(IE) staffer in every issue of IE Focus. In this issue, Mr. Russ Anstey tells us a bit about what he’s learned during his time with ADM(IE). If you know of anyone who would make an interesting profile, please send us an email.