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AFSO 21 improves Total Force processes

  • Published
  • By Maj. Thomas Kirkland
  • 315th Airlift Wing Performance Plans
No doubt, almost everyone has heard about Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century by now and its philosophy for leaning out processes and getting rid of time-consuming portions.

Just in case you've been under a rock or in hiding, AFSO 21 is a new program initiated by the secretary of the Air Force for doing just that -- stream-lining our processes and getting rid of waste in its various forms such as resources, material and time.

Some people like to argue that this is a new program, but those of us who have been around a while have seen something similar like this in the past. If you can't remember let me refresh your memory -- Quality Air Force and Total Quality Management. Does that bring back memories? As the saying goes, "If you don't learn from your mistakes, you are bound to repeat them." Let us hope this will not be the case this time around.

Despite its flaws, TQM and the other previous continuous process improvement programs did accomplish a few notable milestones. It made us look at our processes to see if we could improve them as a force. AFSO 21 is the Phoenix rising from its ashes with some major improvements.

Truth being told, the Air Force was born of these CPI programs. We were born out of the Army because Gen. Billy Mitchell saw improvements over the current state of doing warfare. Gen. James Doolittle looked beyond the conventional wisdom at the time and proved launching light bombers off aircraft carriers could be done. I guess you could argue these weren't CPI programs, but they were a necessity at the time. However, necessity is the motherhood of invention that proved those individuals who can look outside the box can achieve remarkable results.

AFSO 21 has already achieved some noteworthy results in various areas. However, to survive as a program, it must be included in our Total Force concept.

What does this have to do with our Total Force concept you ask? That's a good question so let me answer that for you. I don't think any of us could argue that if someone were to have a good idea on how to improve a process and eliminate some waste (remember money, material, and time) that whoever or wherever it came from, being an active-duty person, a Reservist, National Guardsmen from E-1 to 0-10 or a civil servant, that it would be a bad thing for our organization. This is the Total Force Lean concept we should apply to our entire work force. Whoever has an idea for an improvement of a process that will recover waste should involve everyone in this process. With process being the key word here, we thoroughly need to know them before we can offer fixes for them. So there you have it; the key to survival for this program.

If AFSO 21 is to make it to the 22nd century, we should fully engage our work forces' entire spectrum of individuals including civilian, military and reserves from top to bottom and foster an environment that will have them actively involved in knowing the key processes so as to readily identify the wasteful areas and be ready to offer solutions of improvement.