Commander's Corner: Keep AFSO21 in your minds

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert E. Suminsby Jr.
  • 377th Air Base Wing Commander
Guess what? The Air Force is downsizing.

I realize this isn't news to most of you, but there are still a few stubborn, "old school" people out there who are still in denial. They're still trying to "do more with less" and continuing the same old unwieldy, lengthy processes that they were taught as airmen or junior officers. They're stressing out because they don't have the staff to do the things they did in the good ol' days.

They may also be unnecessarily stressing their subordinates by giving them more work and responsibilities than needed. There are enough stressors getting the mission accomplished correctly, deploying, taking care of your family and being a leader. Don't put more on yourself and your people than is needed to meet your mission. Ask yourself, what do we do that adds value?

You need to stop, look at your operation and break it down into core processes. What are you being paid to accomplish? Does each step in your process add value? If not, why do it? AFSO21 isn't a "work smarter, not harder" concept...we have to find work that we can eliminate.

Look at what you do from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. If you are spending time doing things that don't carry you to your goal then you need to eliminate these processes. Putting them aside till later isn't helping. Get rid of them! If it requires a change to an Air Force instruction, then get on it. The sooner you get it done the sooner you can focus on your core mission.

"The AFI says we have to" isn't a good reason to keep doing a process that's not value added. We need to attack those issues and change outdated guidance That's where senior leadership earns their pay...bring those issues to your leadership's attention, so that we can go fight those battles and try to get the rules changed.

The downsizing of the Air Force is an "intentional train wreck"...very few government organizations are capable of streamlining themselves without some kind of outside shock to the system. We are getting smaller of fiscal necessity, and the downsizing forces us to be creative in order to maintain our mission with fewer people. The Air Force wants us to get the wasted time out of our systems. It wants us to be left with smooth running, mission oriented units which aren't weighed down with outmoded, awkward processes that don't further the unit's mission.

Another thing you can do is talk to your customer. Who is your customer? It may take a while to figure this out, but you are doing your job for someone. Talk to that someone and find out if you are accomplishing your job to their satisfaction. Find out if you are going way beyond what they need and expect. Find out if you are duplicating something someone else is also doing. Are you sending the same information to three different agencies, in different formats? If so, your people are probably frustrated.

Speaking of your people, who better to ask about duplication and unnecessary steps and processes? Sometimes just eliminating a step can make things work smoother and quicker. Ask the people doing the job what gets in their way of doing it correctly and quickly.

A key that a process needs examining is the answer "we're doing this because said to do it," or "we've always done it this way." Both statements indicate that there may be no good reason to do things the way they are being done now, and that you need to reexamine the process.

The Air Force is downsizing. It isn't an option; it's a matter of survival. We have to save money on personnel costs today in order to buy the Air Force of tomorrow. We've always been effective at what we do; now we have to focus on being efficient as well. We have to make the Air Force "lean." Don't wait for someone else to tell you how...start with your little corner of the Air Force, and start asking the hard questions that generate change!