Embracing change...

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kim Wheeler
  • Chief, ARPC Public Affairs
For more than 15 years, the Air Force has become a smaller, leaner and more capable force. The key to our success is the balancing of resources. Having the right number of people in the right positions saves money and makes us more efficient - ensuring we've got the right people, in the right job, at the right time. We must also embrace enabling technologies to perform our jobs more quickly and accurately.

Just over the last couple years, the Air Force Public Affairs career field has been reduced by 30 percent, forcing PA shops around the world to rethink and re-evaluate the way "we've always done business." In fact, as I write this Master Sgt. J.C. Woodring, ARPC PA's News Chief is attending the AF Senior NCO Strategic Communications Planning conference at McGhee-Tyson Air Guard Base, Tenn.

One of the preparatory homework assignments for attendees was requesting input from their unit's senior leaders with a "PA Business Alignment Survey" measuring what PA products and services are the "highest value" to their mission. Once these are identified, PA SNCOs at the conference will build strategic communications plans with limited resources, aligning PA efforts with those priorities. I'm proud to say we received very meaningful and deliberate input from ARPC directors and deputies, which Sergeant Woodring carried with him to build a plan. We're excited to receive the results, present them upon his return and align our local PA efforts to those priorities.

Change is never easy, and it's challenging times like this when some of the best ideas are born.

Case in point Kodak, has been a household mainstay in film and camera production since 1881. They were the first to produce cameras that were suitable for nonexpert use. During World War I, Eastman Kodak developed aerial cameras and trained aerial photographers for the U.S. Signal Corps.

However, when electronic imaging became king in 1990s, which dispensed the need for film - Kodak found they'd missed the "digital boat" - failing to realize the potential of digital imaging. After 2001, business also suffered from the drop in travel to terrorism fears and severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, a viral respiratory illness. By 2004, the world's largest film manufacturer had eliminated more than 29,000 jobs.

But did Kodak cash it in? No, they waged a war on all fronts against newcomers they hadn't faced in the film market: Sony, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard. Kodak restructured, invested money in new technologies and transformed to enter a well-established digital market. Now they've become the number one seller of digital cameras in the United States, also bringing to the table their background in photographic printing. By no means is Kodak out of the woods. However, by maintaining a technological edge and becoming more efficient and focused, they've survived.

We can learn a lot from Kodak's failures and success - accepting change, embracing technology, taking huge risks and coming to the table prepared and focused, with solutions and options not roadblocks to issues at hand.

So as the Air Force reduces manpower, purchases and rethinks the way we conduct business, its very success is up to each of us -- our ingenuity, aggressiveness and willingness to take risks.