HomeNewsArticle Display

VIEWPOINT - Making common sense common practice

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- My favorite uncle, Joe Kader, was fond of telling dry, deadpan jokes. One autumn day years ago when I was a teenager, I was taking a walk with him around his farm when a huge flock of Canadian geese flew over in their typical V-formation.

Uncle Joe Kader gazed up into the sky and asked me, "Do you know why one side of the V-formation is longer than the other?"

I thought about it for a minute and failing to come up with any logical explanation to his question, I responded, "I have no idea."

Uncle Joe Kader flashed his famous "got ya" grin and stated "Because there are more geese on that side." After falling for his jokes every time, he'd follow up with how most of life's successes could be had by simply applying good old common sense. I think he was right.

Over the past 30 years in the Air Force, one of the recurring themes I have supported and worked hard at over the years is helping the Air Force become more effective and efficient. If Joe Kader was still around he'd tell you becoming more effective and efficient are good things and just common sense. I think he'd be right again.

I believe the Air Force is making it difficult to apply common sense. We make it hard to understand and execute when we apply too much sloganeering and use flavor-of-the-month buzzwords.

As a second lieutenant back in 1981, the Air Force's latest version of process improvement was the pursuit of Quality Circles. Since then I've seen Integrated Process Teams, Process Action Teams, Tiger Teams, Deming's 14 Point Management Method, Juran's Management Method, Management By Objectives, Total Quality Management, Quality Air Force, Process Redesign, Empowerment Training, Reengineering, Business Process Reengineering, Process Transformation and our latest incarnation, Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century.

I have labored mightily in all the above over the years and believe each effort brought some relative level of success and benefit to the Air Force. But if my Uncle Joe Kader was still with us he would surely point out the commonality across all the programs: they all are about process improvement! I think he'd be right again.

Let's cut the hoopla and keep it simple. I suggest a three step mental process as you work our eight-step methodology.

First, identify your key processes. Ask yourself why your organization exists and the answer will lead to the identification of your key processes. This is known formally as Strategic Alignment and Deployment.

Second, apply meaningful performance measures to your key processes. Some folks call them "metrics." "Meaningful" being defined as customer-focused and, if the performance measure goes wacko, it will drive leadership intervention and corrective action.

Customer-focused performance measures are not hard to develop. Ask yourself what is it about your process the customer cares about. Is it how long it takes? Apply a cycle time performance measure. Is it the quality of the output? Apply a defect rate performance measure. Is it the cost of your product or service? Apply a cost per unit performance measure.

You may elect to apply a combination of the three; for example let's say you are an F-15E pilot and the "key process" you own is blasting ground targets. We can apply cycle time; how long is your sortie length? We can apply defect rate; how many bombs missed your intended target? We can apply cost per unit; how much did it cost to execute the sortie? Armed with the answers to these questions you can very easily transition to applying the tools and techniques as applicable to every step of the the 8-Step process. Your efforts could lead you to identifying a shorter egress route resulting in shorter cycle time and cheaper fuel cost. Or it could lead you to select a different bomb load determined to be more effective against your desired target resulting in lower defect rate. Or you may find a faster and safer method of uploading bombs resulting in reduced cycle time for sortie turnaround and a reduction in the number of work-related injures.

The third and last step is to hold people accountable to meet the new standard. The eight-step method is simple and it works...and most importantly, when done right, is effective.

Our senior leadership speaks clearly on AFSO21. As former Secretary Wynne stated: "We will fund transformation through ... organizational efficiencies, process efficiencies, reduction of legacy systems and manpower while sustaining GWOT and ongoing operations in support of the Joint Fight." That's pretty clear. Simply put, we need money for recapitalization and modernization efforts and we're going to get it by reducing the amount of time it takes to get things done and manpower costs (read cycle time and cost per unit reduction). All the while ensuring we remain effective. Even Uncle Joe Kader could understand that.

We make it tough when well intended folks start wordsmithing and jazzing up our message with the latest buzzwords. I recently witnessed a presentation addressing a serious process improvement effort and a slide addressed cost reduction efforts and read: "Synchronizes process redesign funding allocations across implementation initiatives." While I'm absolutely sure the author knows exactly what it means and all the supporting rationale behind it, after reading it I immediately got a mental picture of my uncle scratching his head with a "What the...huh!?" expression across his face. If we expect every Airman to understand and help execute our process improvement efforts, why do we make it so hard to understand?

After all, according to Uncle Joe Kader, "It's all just a bunch of common sense; problem is, common sense is not always common practice." There he goes again, I think he's right.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.