Smart Ops 21 enables troops to accomplish the right things

  • Published
  • By Col. Lori Ramirez
  • 425th Air Base Group commander
You’re going to start hearing a lot about Smart Ops 21. I want to put it in real terms for each of you. It’s not about doing more with less. It’s about doing more and less; more of the right things and less of what keeps us from them.

We’re already dealing with the realities of a constrained budget and less than 100 percent manning. It’s about doing what’s smart with the limited number of people, equipment and supplies (and time) that we do have. It’s about using our brain power to our advantage so we work smarter, not harder, to make up for those resource constraints. Don’t pass the buck. No one knows better than you how to deal with problems in your area…if you don’t take the time to figure out the best solution, then the mission suffers and your people suffer.

Smart Ops 21 means enabling the troops who do the work everyday to figure out where we can focus on the big impact items, the mission essential tasks, and not get all caught up in the smaller day-to-day busy work.

I want you to tell me how we can eliminate waste. But it’s bigger than just cutting something here or there. It’s about looking at an entire process end to end and seeing where it can all change…to take less time to accomplish…to take less steps to accomplish…to get the most done with focused, streamlined effort.

We have a long history of asking our smart people to tell us how to do things better. From the Suggestion Program to Tiger Teams and Process Improvement Teams, the Air Force has always empowered us to find a way to make things better. Throughout the force we have incredibly intelligent, inventive and dedicated people. Almost everyday, no kidding, I hear someone talking about a process they would like to change or a problem that they would like to fix. Many times they know how they want to do it, but they run into real or imagined roadblocks, “Well, that’s how it’s always been done” or “I’m only going to be here for a year and it will just change when I’m gone” or “I doubt anyone will listen to me.” I’m listening. I want all supervisors to listen. It’s time to make some change.

You have the knowledge, training and common sense to know when there are things we are doing that we don’t have to. Things that take up too much time for the value gained. Don’t let these things distract you from your larger goals. What is it you want to accomplish while you’re here? What is it that you need to do your the job better? What would make the service you provide absolutely First Class? Just think of three or four big things. Now think about how much time you’ve had in the last month to work on them. Not much? Why not?

What is using up your day instead of the important things? What can you do to refocus your efforts? Here are a few ideas:

Discuss goals with your supervisor. If your supervisor agrees, then they will support you when you want to have a meeting, or take time to write proposals or research AFIs. 

Set aside time. Actually block off your calendar just like you do for physical training three days a week. 

Get others involved. Who else has knowledge of the process? When you fix a process, look end to end. You will often find that in order to make big improvements you have to look outside your AOR.

Am I asking you to take short cuts? In a way. Cut short steps that don’t add value. Cut short steps that just repeat what someone else is doing. Cut short steps that cause the same piece of paper to travel the same path three you’re or four times.

Am I asking you to abandon your quest for absolute perfection? In a way. I’d rather have the 90 percent solution on time so I can make a decision, than wait for the perfect answer when it’s too late to make a difference. Fighting that uphill battle for the extra 10 percent uses energy better spent on other big mission impact items that are either getting no attention at all or getting your attention at the end of a 12-hour day. And how good a product will that be when you can’t even focus?

Work smarter, not harder. Enable your people to work smarter, not harder. Make smart decisions about trade offs. Figure out how to make processes leaner.

In the end you will get more of the right things done instead of just getting more done.