Don’t let ‘Cracks’ turn into ‘Fractures’
By Lt. Gen. Norman Seip , Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander
/ Published October 17, 2008
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- When rocks break apart from mountains, the resulting landslide can be forceful, dramatic and extreme. The start of these spectacular occurrences is most often a small crack, a slight fault in the structure or tiny amounts of water seeping into fissures causing weakness in the mountain's formations. The same concept applies in our Air Force; "cracks" at the unit level can lead to dramatic "fractures" across the organization.
Just as mountains are brought down by tiny droplets of water or small imperfections, organizational psychologists have documented how large groups often meet their demise by neglecting the minute details of their core mission. Author and business consultant Jim Collins outlined some of the ways good organizations become great (while others stay mediocre) in his book "Good to Great: Why some Companies Make the Leap...and others don't." Corporations achieving excellence found disciplined workers who acted in a disciplined manner -- benefitting the overall organization by improving on core competencies. The failing businesses lost focus and neglected their unique attributes, mission or employees. Air Force leadership is committed to providing an environment to ensure our team can focus on the mission by enabling "good" Airmen to become "great."
For today's Airmen, our core mission is clear. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force has outlined it simply: "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace."
Anything detracting from this simple mission statement is likely to create a fissure quickly damaging your team's ability to accomplish the mission. Are Airmen pencil-whipping forms, checklists or procedures? Is required training accomplished on time? Is excellence valued in the office, during training and personally? Are PT scores rising....or falling? Do members of your team look out for one another and treat co-workers with respect?
Once analyzed, it's easy to see how these cracks in an office can create a fracture within a squadron or wing.
Preventing a landslide is simple: adherence to current policies, instructions and guidelines will help your team to identify the details related to their job. As Airmen become proficient at these details, they'll gain confidence and positive reinforcement -- propelling them to greater achievement and team cohesion.
Supervisors and leaders should wisely apply operational risk management, standards, creativity and common sense to create a work environment where your team will excel. Posture your team for success by minding the "cracks" in processes, procedures and persons before these small "fractures" start detracting from our core mission -- to fly, fight and win!