Change, improvement possible through AFSO21

  • Published
  • By Capt. Paul Hubenthal
  • CCO
"I am not in charge." 

Have you ever found yourself saying these words? How did it make you feel? How did it sound as you uttered or thought this phrase to yourself? Did you feel powerless, aimless or even victimized? Did you think to consider, "if I'm not in charge, who is?" 

We often point to the commander or director as the person in charge, which is more a notional ideal of simplicity and security (letting someone else be responsible) than an expression of reality. 

However, if you were to ask them, you might get a sense from their perspective just how little they are really in charge. 

The reality is that everyone is accountable to everyone else and influential within an organization. That is the fundamental premise for effecting improvement or meaningful change, everyone has power or influence to make change happen, and those changes which result from grassroots, with leadership support, make for enduring effects.

Waiting to be in charge before effecting change is "akin to getting married with the plan to start changing your spouse immediately after the ceremony," as so eloquently put by Geoffrey Bellman, author of "Getting Things Done When You are Not in Charge." 

The Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century office, or CCO, at the Air Reserve Personnel Center is here to provide the tools, consultation, guidance and facilitation to help you implement your ideas. In other words, it is here to empower your ideas.

And so one question leads to another, and you might ask "when is change needed?" 

Where you may be experiencing pain or stress, have feelings of despair and anxiety, recognize disparity between how things are and how they should be (wants vs. reality) or simply have an understanding that a problem exists under current conditions, the discussion for change should be initiated. 

Simply knowing that change is possible and undertaking progressive steps to improve can be quite therapeutic, will yield some stress relief and may even prove to be fun.

Think of the oyster who encounters the irritant of a piece of sand entering its shell. It does not attempt to endure this discomforting intrusion, but it secretes a substance to smooth the sharp edges of the sand, creating a precious and beautiful pearl. In this way, success will provide its own reward.

The beauty of AFSO21 is you already have the ideas needed for improvement; CCO exists to help you assemble the team (in most cases these are interested or influential people with whom you work) and facilitate the exchange of ideas to turn your ideas into reality. 

Whether you wish to target processes, manpower use, materials and supplies, cost, quality or product delivery, all facets of operations are fair game for change and improvement by making your case and soliciting buy-in from the business process owner. 

It merely begins with a series of questions, beginning with the simple phrase "why?" The right questions will stir thought, promote action and in turn create change; all for the sake of someone with the courage and insight to ask the questions. 

The key is to stay nimble, free and opportunistic. Think of the boy who joined the marching band as a trombonist. After the parade the drum master told him how terrible he was. "Why didn't you tell me you couldn't play the trombone," he asked. "How would I know, I never tried it before," came the reply. 

It is only by trying can we learn what we can or cannot do or what the possibilities are that lay in wait. If it doesn't work, try something else, and you may surprise yourself by what you can indeed accomplish.