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Getting to execution

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shane Gillies
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

When the wing supported the recent humanitarian airdrop operations in Iraq, we witnessed the execution stage of countless hours, months, and even years of preparatory work.  The delivered pallets, containing thousands of meals and bottles of water, were the culminating point of complex coordination across the wing and other organizations just to get to the point of execution.  Everything we do should be focused on getting to execution.

At the lowest levels, effecting change is as simple as turning a wrench or pushing a button.  To get your ideas implemented across larger and larger organizations, however, requires grit to navigate the staffing process.  Though the staffing process is neither glamorous nor instantaneous, it provides us the best process for getting to the right action, the right way.  Our organization is comprised of subject matter experts, but none of us are an expert on everything.  The intent of the staffing process is to provide our subject matter experts the opportunity to apply a series of checks and balances, ensuring that an idea is truly ready for execution.  A plan that may be good to one group may negatively impact another group.  An idea that increases access may jeopardize security.  And what may appear to be a great idea on the surface could be prohibited by law or Air Force instruction. 

Over the course of the few hundred staff packages and other proposals that I have reviewed and prepared for decision by the wing commander or vice wing commander, there are several traits that appear in the best packages.  Incorporating these techniques paves the way for an innovative idea to get to execution.

First, the proposal clearly states the ‘why.’  Why does action need to be taken in the first place?  Why is your proposed plan the best course of action?  Why did you design your proposal the way you did?  Effectively explaining the ‘why’ first forces you to closely analyze the problem and your proposed plan.  Further, clearly communicating and documenting the ‘why’ captures your rationale for future rotations to understand the reason for a particular decision, helping to overcome the “rotational amnesia” we experience in the deployed environment due to the frequent turnover.

Next, the appropriate supporting documentation accompanies the plan or is readily available.  The best staff packages identify the costs and benefits of the proposal in dollars, time, or manpower to enable the deciding authority to make a fully educated decision.  Additionally, you should present the laws or Air Force instructions that pertain to the issue, dictating the level of the decision maker and what the decision maker may or may not do.  These documents establish the foundation for your ‘why.’

Finally, the best staffwork is presented clearly and concisely, aiming to get the point across as efficiently as possible.  This includes getting the details right, however small, to avoid distraction and finding your proposal bogged down in endless corrections.  Whether you are drafting an electronic staff summary sheet, communicating your plan via email, or directly briefing the decision maker, place your ‘why’ up front and clearly outline what you want the decision maker to do. 

Think about the innovative ideas you have to improve the way we accomplish our mission.  To boost the likelihood that the organization adopts your idea and gets it to execution, develop your ‘why,’ strongly support your idea with facts, and present it in a clear and concise manner.  Starting with your idea today, grit and a smart approach to the staffing process gets us to execution tomorrow.