ALC team uses 'Art of the Possible' to boost security program

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- An operations management revolution that spurred aircraft production is now propelling the personnel security program for the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.

Facing an increased workload, a team of six workers in the complex’s Management Operations Office Readiness Section has dramatically increased work volume through application of the Art of the Possible.

Virginia Dyer, lead for the personnel security program, said the same program that has been so successful in aircraft production has been a remarkable success in the work her office performs. In fact, AoP may well be an even better fit for administrative functions than any other platform, she said.

“The Art of the Possible has helped us with this process and made our processes much leaner,” she said. “Because we have a good team, the process just kept getting better and better.”

Complex personnel are required to undergo a periodic reinvestigation, or PR, of their background to obtain the security clearance required for their job. Investigations for “Secret” security clearances must be accomplished every 10 years. “Top Secret” clearances must be renewed every five years.

Those who are uncertain or have difficulties getting their security background package prepared can enlist the help of Dyer’s team. Seven of 10 ALC people request assistance, she said.

“Everybody here does the same thing; we help customers,” Dyer said. “We can help you submit your security clearance package, making sure it’s accurate.”

The security team does the “upfront work,” assisting personnel with pulling credit reports and preparing for background checks -- getting a PR package ready. After the PR is submitted, OPM sends investigators for personnel interviews.

“Our main goal is to get them their security clearance,” Dyer said. “We want them to get their security clearance. There’s going to be a few people who don’t get them, but we want to do our best to help them get theirs.”

A rise in security status for 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group personnel from “non-sensitive” to “non-critical” caused an increase in workload for the security office, Dyer said. A lot of people never had to go through a clearance investigation. Also, performing investigations of maintenance workers can be hampered because not all flight line technicians have their own computers.

Chris Welchel, Readiness Section chief, said the unit set out on the AoP journey about two years ago to take on increased demands.

Although the personnel security program is an administrative process, AoP for the program works just like it does for the aircraft groups. The security section team began with five gates. Like their aircraft maintenance brethren, the team does a “Walk the Wall,” a charted process review. The security office does its walk every other week.

Dyer and Welchel said a database created for and used by the team is a major key. With so many PRs getting done monthly, it’s extremely helpful that the software updates the PR numbers daily.

“Everything revolves around updating the database,” Welchel said. “It gives us visibility. We can see the work getting through the processes. It gives us focus daily.”

With emphasis on common goals, a shared terminology and constant concentration on continuous process improvement, the security team has drastically increased the speed of its machine.

In 2015, 610 personnel had PRs processed by the security office annually, Dyer said. That total was boosted to about 1,080 in 2016 – an average of 90 per month -- thanks to the hard work of the team and its use of the Art of the Possible. This year, the office expects to finish as many as 1,200 reinvestigations, Dyer said.

The number of overdue PRs has dropped dramatically, as well. That total was 305 in December 2015. By December 2016, the number was reduced by 90 percent.

The first version of the security section’s AoP process had five gates that recorded 102 workflow days and a total of 195 work in progress, or WIP. The gates have since dropped from five to three, and the totals have decreased, as well, to 70 workflow days and 115 WIP.

“Through refinement and process improvement, right now we are mulling a 50-day process,” Welchel said. “But right now, it’s at 70 days.”

The work has progressed so well, the ALC team is now authorized by the Air Force Sustainment Center to release PR packages directly to the Office of Personnel Management – a significant advancement in speed and leaner operations.

Dyer credited the hard-working members of the team and their dedication to the mission and process improvement for the program’s achievements. It’s because of the process we have in place, but it’s also because of the people who manage the process. Without all of them and all of us, this machine wouldn’t even work,” she said.

The resulting smooth process makes for a happier work force all around.

“Everybody on the flight line, their perception of personnel security processing has changed dramatically,” she said. “The more we did it, the better it became. The mindset has changed. Everybody has really played a part in making this successful.

“People want to do this, whereas they didn’t before,” she said. “I don’t know how many times people have told us how much what we do means to them. It’s very rewarding.”

Their success in improving mission performance has brought the personnel security team deserved attention. Their processes have been benchmarked by other organizations, and studied by visiting commanders and the sister air logistics complexes.

The unit won an “Outstanding Team” recognition during an Inspector General inspection in July.