The Results are in! Despite your Efforts…We will NOT change the Air Force.

Update:

Wow! I've had such a great response to this article. There have been about 3,000 views and many comments this week alone. I will say this again, I'm so proud to be a part of the greatest Air Force in the history of the world and if I can even have a small part in making change I would be honored. The change will come from all of your energy, so please keep pressing forward and let me know if I can help you in any way! V/R, Reid

Original Article below:

Let’s start with last week was amazing! Not only did I get an overwhelming response to my survey about how to improve the Air Force Squadrons but I now have firsthand knowledge that our Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force are dedicated to changing our Air Force for the better.

But they won’t and here’s why.

Brigadier General "John Doe" (Focus Area 1 Chair for Revitalizing Squadrons) was tasked to assemble a team to travel the Air Force for a year and collect information about what was wrong with our Squadrons. Time-bounded not results-oriented, focused on collecting a “correct” sample not the best ideas, collaborative in such a way that they had ~300 votes on the most popular idea out of 600,000 Airmen, and the list goes on. A shock to anyone reading this is the report came to the same tired answers, formatted in the same report style written by a high paid contractor, and after approval, it will be sent back into the bureaucratic process for execution from 2018 to 2022.

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. (Einstein)

One of the “epic” examples of missing the mark was the recognition that CBTs (Computer Based Training) were not effective training tools. If you have spent a day in the Air Force, you would know this as a fundamental truth, and their solution is to create another layer of bureaucracy to review training. To add insult to injury, here is a quote from the draft report: “Airmen’s complaints about CBT were reminiscent of that old joke about the cynical Soviet factory worker: He said, ‘We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.’”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME! The Airmen we are trying to reach with this report were born around the fall of the World Trade Center, not the Berlin Wall.

I was so worked up that I sent a note to the Secretary of the Air Force directly after our meeting and here is an excerpt of the message:

“Madam Secretary Wilson,

As I read the 160-page draft report, I immediately realized that although Gen Does’ team did an excellent job on their task, it was designed and executed in the same bureaucratic process that it was meant to change. In my humble opinion, there are plenty of good ideas within this report but nothing hard hitting, quick, and revolutionary which gives it a high probability of failing to meet the objective of fundamental change for our Squadrons.

Thank you again and Very Respectfully,

Reid”

After I hit send, I held my breath.

About a month ago, when I was invited to provide feedback to the Secretary of the Air Force, I started in a different and collaborative way. Your input through a two-week online survey produced all of the same results as a General Officer, three Lieutenant Colonels, a Chief, and an army of contractors was able to do in a year. But that’s not all. Your ideas were actually creative, innovative, and get after solving some of the most wicked problems that face our Air Force. (I’ve included the complete survey results below.)

Don’t give up Hope!

The Secretary of the Air Force called me back within minutes…and I missed her call! It takes a great deal of power to create enough inertia to change the Air Force at its core, and we can do it. Adopt some of the ideas that were given within the survey within your unit, keep the pressure on when you engage Senior Leadership, and know that your Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force want to change, we just need to get these great ideas to them.

Keep an eye out for installment three of this series after I have my next engagement with Secretary Wilson.

 

 

Survey Questions and Results:

Preamble: Share with Active, Reserve, Guard, Retired, and anyone else who has great ideas! Thanks in advance...Lt Col/Mr./Congressional Staffer Reid Novotny

“To each, there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” Winston Churchill

Tied for 1st: Trust your Airmen by default: 4.5/5.0

A perfect example is in the world of networks where an Airman leaves one unit with permissions to everything on the Air Force networks and then moves to my unit and are stripped of their network rights. Conversely, the Air Force could have thought that they now have one more trained Airmen to lower the workload for everyone. How about filling out a network user access form for every base as you PCS. Did you forget how to use email during the week drive across the country? Along those lines, my favorite response from the Airmen Powered by Innovation programs is “common suggestion denied.” Maybe if enough Airmen think we should do something the Air Force should trust them and listen.

Tied for 1st: Increase the ability to assume risk at the Squadron Commander Level: 4.5/5.0

Every non-life threating AFI, DODI, etc should be waiverable at the Squadron Commander level with an acknowledgement (not approval) from their Group Commander. The reverse should also be true, Squadron Commanders should be ready to be fired at a much higher rate if they make an irrecoverable mistake. When an Inspector General Team comes to a Squadron, they should make sure they are accomplishing their assigned mission, no more and no less. Stop thinking the Pentagon knows what the Squadron needs…empower them to get the mission done and get out of the way.

3rd: Introduce 360 appraisals for Commanders: 4.5/5.0

We have truly exceptional and toxic leaders in the Air Force. I’ve had leaders who I would follow to the ends of the Earth and others that were drunks, adulterers, and made it obvious to the lowest level Airmen that they just didn’t care. Big Air Force already have their supervisor’s opinion of their performance (OPR) it is now time to get their peers and subordinates.

4th: Encourage Airmen who want to contribute outside of their assigned career: 4.4/5.0

One of my best Windows 7 technicians was a maintainer and I only knew about him because he was married to my secretary. One of the lawyers on base was married to someone who taught at a schoolhouse for one of my specialties, so I got him to come and help with my Airmen. Someone awaiting discharge who was sent to my Post Office (as punishment) was able to write code for the PII button that we all use today in Outlook. Everyone knows the Airmen who is in Logistics but runs their own home network or works in Security Forces but is a master carpenter. We need to connect wicked problems with the Airmen who have the solutions, because they do. This could be next door or around the Air Force. Use the model of Google that forces people to work outside their set duties for those Airmen who want to contribute more. Why would we not want to capitalize on this untapped potential?

5th: Institutionalize the Exceptional: 4.3/5.0

Why is it that initiatives that really, truly succeed in the face of the bureaucratic system, blow everyone’s mind, are always due to a herculean effort of an Airmen or group of Airmen working around the system? You can take one of many recent examples from DIUx, DDS, or my example of writing the Evaluation Management System for processing decorations and evaluations that was used by most of the AF for seven years while they developed vPC. We are kidding ourselves if we didn’t think we have more Airmen ready and able to deliver some huge wins if they weren’t constrained by all of the people in the chain who are averse to taking risk or spend their time looking up a rule to support their answer of no.

6th: Flexible manning at the Squadron: 4.3/5.0

I was a commander of a medium Squadron so we have a few people to ensure our Physical Fitness requirements were met but the Contracting Squadron of 25 had a hard time maintaining all of the continuity binders needed to pass an inspection let alone testing Airmen. We tested their Airmen and their Commander wrote a memorandum for record stating they were part of our Squadron and probably got written up by the IG. Expand this to another example, the Contracting Squadron also ran a few servers that literally sat in a closet which we took on. If you need 10% of an Airmen’s time to split between 10 Squadrons on base or around the world, we should make this happen.

7th: Allow Commanders to have more control of assignments: 4.2/5.0

Allow commander to control assignments as long as there’s a zero net sum game. The Air Force can only reward the truly exceptions among us with “slightly” quicker promotions or choice mission/location assignments. Run the assignments process exactly as it is done today, move up the release two months earlier and allow for any two Airmen to swap assignments if they get both their Squadron Commanders approval. Could you imagine the good that could happen when you apply a 100% personal touch and work within the Air Force assignments process?

8th: Burn the Tongue and Quill along with 100s of other instructions: 4.1/5.0

We don’t need a clean-up of our AF Instructions, we need to erase some like they never existed. I have never read an AFI and been inspired to do as much as I could but rather they are written to the bare minimum. If you set the passing grade at mediocrity then that is what you will get…why not explain the mission and allow for flexible solutions? A perfect example of an AFI that needs to be burned is the Tongue and Quill. Many Airmen love to reference and turn around memorandums that do not have the right margins. Redact this AFI and insert, “Please use MLA, APA, or any other format you would like.” This might actually get our Airmen experience when they join corporate America for a change. Conversely, a recent reduction win for the Air Force is that if you are driving a normal passenger government vehicle, you only need a valid driver’s license, not a government license. Our Wing is now making a supplement to ensure you have a Government driver’s license. Don’t worry, there are 1,000s of examples like this throughout our Air Force.

Content Analysis of Comments:

Reinvent Manning:

  • Flexible manning where you can use a portion of an Airmen’s time.
  • Joint exchange of Sister Servicemen into AF Squadrons.
  • True Integration into Reserve and Guard based on life situations.
  • Plus up the CSS manpower to provide the support.
  • Make wing and group executive positions actual positions.
  • Baseline the amount of work and concentrate on warfight.

Training:

  • Additional training for commanders.
  • More time to train for Airmen.
  • Test out of AFSC Schools.

Assignments:

  • Commanders control or have more control of assignments (not AFPC).
  • Career counselor versus AFPC work assignments (not everyone wants to be a General or Chief).
  • Less moves and increase homesteading.
  • AF.monster.com for assignments (people can apply and commander can hire).
  • Release assignments months earlier, do the normal process and speed it up so people can life plan.

Personnel:

  • Bring back the warrant officer program.
  • Revamp evaluations by changing the style and controlling for over inflation.
  • Encourage Airmen who want to contribute outside of their assigned career when trained in their assigned AFSC.
  • Special identifiers for secondary schools.
  • Reinforce 360 feedback for a limited number of individuals.
  • Make evaluations either "Go" or "No-Go."
  • Mission first over other Airmen qualities (PT, volunteer, etc).
  • Eliminate Deputy duty title because it adds to bureaucracy at a Squadron.
  • Use existing technology to streamline and unify the feedback, evaluation, and awards processes.
  • Reduce the number of lines on evaluations and put more focus on the rating. 
  • Get rid of the quarterly/annual awards or just apply them to E6 and below. 
  • Stop out-sourcing training to the private sector, where we can train.
  • Lower Peer Competition for Sq/CCs…allow for quicker feedback on toxic leaders.
  • Eliminate government civilian unions.

Information Technology:

  • Use what you already have and use it right.
  • Smartphone for all (use to work all aspects of an Airmen’s Life and make them sensors).
  • Use current technology that is free.
  • Quit reinventing the wheel and adopt the best software already available (vPC, DTS, Leaveweb).
  • Paperless in and out processing.
  • Communicate in the speed of the 21st century (social media, etc).
  • Streamline processes.

Innovative Ideas (Institutionalize the Exceptional):

  • Start-up acquisition theory, big AF buys up Airmen’s ideas and mainstreams the idea. Create an ability to exchange ideas (best of breed) and then support them programmatically.
  • Use all of the authorities in the FAR for faster acquisition.
  • End 0700-1600 standard workday for mission and family.
  • Enhance Congressional interaction.
  • Do another BRAC and actually close bases.
  • All Doctrine, strategic guidance, and the basic theme that makes us Airmen should be simple, straightforward and complement each other.
  • Institutionalize fixes and then request relief in the oversight burden from DoD/Congress.
  • Newer equipment and equipment management processes.
  • Overhaul the inspection system
  • Look at how the Status of Discipline process works on base to make the AF a safe place to make mistakes.
  • Make all climate assessments automatic and public.
  • Outsource remedial work.
  • Esprit de corps, squadron patches, and hats.

Empowerment (Increase the ability to assume risk at the Squadron Commander Level):

  • Delegate and empower lower than the Squadron Commander, the lowest level for decisions.
  • Commanders talk directly to Airmen to increase communications.
  • Exceptional results are a product of an exceptional culture, empower every Airmen.
  • Lower Waiver Authority for AFIs and reduce the number of AFIs.
  • Clean up middle management.
  • Hands Off (Give some rope to run with).
  • Trust Commanders to make decisions.

Reducing extra work:

  • Continue to kill off ancillary training CBTs and empower supervisors to train and mentor.
  • Additional duty position.
  • Make an admin week to do all CBTs (then give the rest of the time back).