Viewpoint: Put the substance before the flash
By Lt. Col. Jennifer Jenkins, 2nd Space Warning Squadron commander
/ Published February 09, 2010
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Have you ever seen a tricked-out little car that sounds like a lawn-mower? One with flashy rims, an amazing paint job, maybe some flames, big tail-pipes and spoilers, awesome stereo - but under the hood, a tiny, inefficient engine that can't pull the car up a hill? As we head into an important inspection, think of this pretty little car! Think about your mission and programs. Then think about what must come before the flash - substance.
The reason the military conducts inspections is to ensure its forces are capable of doing their missions and complying with higher headquarters' guidance. The intent is a spot check from a higher agency, which validates that organizations are compliant and operationally ready, right then and at all other times as well.
As we prepare ourselves, our programs and our units for this upcoming inspection, it is vital to focus on the most important thing first: substance! Substance is not just about the inspection. The key to running your programs is that your programs work for your organization and your mission. That must be first and foremost in your mind.
Ensure that your program meets the spirit and intent of the higher headquarters guidance. If you think it doesn't, fix your program! If you think there's something amiss with the guidance, then ask the question up the chain of command. We're all human and not infallible. You may have just found an overlooked error! Get help, get additional opinions and learn from others here.
After you ensure that your program meets the spirit and intent of the guidance, is truly working for you the way it should and is contributing to some aspect of your mission the way it should, then it's time to focus on the flash!
"What is flash for my program?" you might ask. Well, this includes the stuff that upon first blush makes inspectors think that you have all your stuff together! Great-looking binders, well-organized sections, well-laid-out graphics, spreadsheets and other visuals, your ability to sit in front of an inspector and dazzle them with your knowledge and confidence in your program and your ability to run it: these are the things that put inspectors in the frame of mind that when they do start delving into your program, they're going to find nothing but perfect!
And of course, they will - because first you focused on substance! You got your program to do its job within your organization and mission. You made it good. Then you made it look good! That is the formula for success. If it's flash and no substance, it will be apparent to inspectors almost immediately after the first look in a program binder or first chat with the program manager. When something of substance is amiss, they'll start digging for more.
So as you're getting ready for this inspection and putting the final touches on your program, think about that little car. You know, the one you've giggled at while stopped at a stoplight. Think about substance. Make it good under the hood first...then go for the flash!