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Finding a way to ‘yes’

  • Published
  • By Dave Perkins
  • 88th Air Base Wing

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- In August 2020, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. released action orders highlighting a strategic approach to move the Air Force toward his vision of a more flexible and capable force.

The Air Force chief of staff’s directive, “Accelerate change or lose,” has gained momentum and is frequently quoted in briefings and articles to support new initiatives and the push for innovative thinking.

What does it really mean to accelerate change? How can each one of us, as Airmen at Wright-Patterson AFB, impact change that will drive the Air Force to a culture of innovation and agility?

Change can happen in virtually any and every organization and at all levels and ranks. Just as small changes can result in big habit transformations for an individual, multiple and focused changes in process and culture can make the general’s vision of a more flexible and capable force a reality.

While acknowledging that everyone contributes to change, many of us may individually struggle with understanding what actions we can really do and why our input really matters. I can assure you they definitely matter.

Every single one of us can take a few actions in three areas: vision, innovation and agility.

  • Vision: Understanding Air Force leadership’s vision is a key foundational element of change. If we don’t know where we are going, we can’t make a path to get there.

There are many briefings, documents and plans with strategies and goals that are available to all of us. The key ones to read and understand are the National Defense Strategy (2018), Air Force Strategic Plan and your organization’s Strategic Plan.

These strategically complimentary documents outline the highest defense priorities and lines of effort the Air Force and its organizations have put in place to achieve them. In addition, Brown’s “Accelerate change or lose” white paper highlights our new military environment and strategic changes needed to maintain military dominance. These documents are worth your time to read.

  • Innovation: Take a step back and look at the processes your organizations perform. Identify small, sustainable changes that can improve the quality, speed or cost of your work products. Small process changes add up over time and drive shifts in culture. Innovation is NOT doing things because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”
  • Agility: Challenge the status quo. At first glance, this may seem like a controversial statement, but there are ways to skillfully and tactfully determine where obstacles to agility exist.

Sometimes, these obstacles are antiquated or inefficient processes (see the previous paragraph on innovation). Laws, regulations or policies could also inhibit our organizations from delivering in an efficient and agile manner.

Once obstacles are identified, elevate them to your leadership. With advocacy, special authorities can sometimes be granted or regulations changed.

Remember that you are a key part of our Air Force family and responsible for work that helps the Air Force accomplish its mission. Find a way to get to “YES” instead of finding a reason why change can’t work.

Continue to embrace the Air Force’s core values of integrity, service and excellence as you find ways to influence change. Future agility and innovation are dependent on your commitment to improve our great Air Force.