An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | April 6, 2015

Start with asking “why?”

By Maj. Tom Phillips 628th Air Base Wing Command Post chief

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education alone will not; the world is full of educated failures.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."  -- President Calvin Coolidge

"Every obstacle presents an opportunity...if you're looking for it.  Relax! You only fail when you quit."  -- Jim Tressel, former NCAA football coach for Ohio State University

I cannot think of a career field in the U.S. Air Force that hasn't seen its share of cutbacks lately.  Whether money, personnel, equipment or other resources, the country's budgetary constraints are starting to have a direct effect on how we all do our jobs.  In some cases, we have already seen the effects. Examples include centralized management of processes, which removed the ability to solve problems at the local level, and consolidated the processes at a nameless/faceless organization stationed at a base, far, far away.  From flight planning, to finance, this has had a profound effect on how we do business and our ability to provide excellent customer service.

In other cases, newer requirements crowd out older responsibilities.  While this isn't the intent from senior leadership, ultimately, this is the effect.  Whatever the focus item of the month, those limited resources can only be used in limited ways while still ensuring mission success.  Ideally, new requirements would come to a base/unit fully resourced.  However, more often than not, we see a new initiative requiring unit POCs, with associated initial and recurring training, being mandated without the needed funding.

As new requirements emerge, organizations and individuals often come to a fork in the road.  One path utilizes the resource constraints as an excuse, to not fully accomplish a basic existing task or needed priority. 

The other path utilizes the resource constraint as an opportunity to re-focus on core job tasks. These tasks include identifying how requirements relate to your function within the organization (i.e. how does this help me provide better customer service), reprioritizing and identifying which items cannot be accomplished fully given the existing resources and working to remove items we shouldn't, or can't be doing from our task list. 

One path is easy ... the other path is hard.  One path offers the option of quitting. The other requires persistence, determination and analysis.  Reading this, I bet that 99 percent of you know which one is the correct path to choose.

The opportunity path requires involvement from both frontline workers and supervisors/leaders.  Fundamentally, both workers and supervisors must ask the question "why?"  Why does our organization use a certain process?  Why do we do it the way we do it?  Is it mandated by AFI?  Is it a process that has outlived its usefulness?  Is it the local way of doing business and how does it compare to other units/installations?  Why is the most critical question and, usually, the hardest to answer.  From experience and research, I've found in many cases the answer to why is "we don't know" or "that's just the way it's been done."  It is at that point, you've likely identified an easy candidate for removal or change. 

Additionally, some items mandated by AFI may be good candidates for removal if you can provide a compelling argument to leadership.  Sure it's work but we owe it to our co-workers, subordinates and supervisors to provide candid feedback regarding what we need to stop doing and what's needed to make that a reality.  Breaking down processes may identify places where simple automation (i.e. utilizing simple SharePoint functions) can reduce workload allowing productivity gains to make up part of the resource gap.  This may not completely solve the problem but it will help. 

Ultimately, we didn't get to this situation overnight and it will take some time to resolve. It will take perseverance and determination to get back to a place where requirements match resources available.  If we as Airmen choose the right path and ask the right questions, we can match opportunity with work and, in the end, make things better for the Air Force as a whole.