Team accelerates change through ‘Agile’ deployment

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Traci Keller
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

332nd AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING -- Since Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. took the helm as the United States Air Force chief of staff, “Accelerate change or lose” has been his primary call to action. Brown’s orders have included speeding up the decision-making process and allowing more space for Airmen to innovate.

In response, the 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron E & I team, responsible for telecommunications systems engineering and installation throughout the base, is cutting their package processing times significantly by implementing the Agile methodology into their workflow.

“Agile breaks down silos,” said Maj. Christopher LaBanca, 332nd ECS E & I lead engineer. “We’re able to collaborate more with the customers.”

As a Tennessee Air National Guardsman, and using his civilian job experience, LaBanca instituted the Agile methodology here to peel away some of the bureaucratic red tape that previously slowed his team’s performance.

“Having over 20 years’ experience leading Agile teams for a Fortune 10 telecom company has certainly helped.” said LaBanca. “Implementing Agile for the E & I process was a no-brainer and I am very proud of the team’s ability to adopt it so quickly. These are skills they can continue to use at their home station and potentially within their civilian careers.”

The typical E & I process is pretty linear: the customer submits a work order request, the request is pushed up to AFCENT, and from there it is tasked out, said LaBanca. The process can get stuck at various stages, either awaiting approval or simply sitting in an inbox. With the Agile methodology, the team can put together a 90% solution in a fraction of the time, said LaBanca.

“We proved that Agile works for E & I and is evident based on several indicators: engineering projects are completed every two weeks as opposed to months, productivity has increased over 200%, quality has improved through peer reviews and weekly sprint retrospectives and we have a very happy customer (the 332nd ECS commander and communications plans and policies).”

As part of the process, every morning, the E & I team commits 15 minutes to a daily standup, called a scrum.  Here, each member states what they were working on yesterday, what they are working on that day, and if there are any “blockers” impeding their process.

Using scrum framework, a package is put together through a series of one-week “sprints,” which essentially breaks it all into bite-size portions. In turn, a team can see a reduction in costs and regularly gauge the progression of a process or package.

“The 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron could not execute large portions of its mission without the fantastic work of our Engineering & Installation partners,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Schisler, 332nd ECS commander. “Not only has this E & I team managed to make up ground lost during the pandemic, but thanks to their work, the 332nd ECS is now ahead of schedule on other communication infrastructure projects.”

These processes do not necessarily cease upon redeployment; the tools that have cleared the backlog from the pandemic and have allowed the E & I team to get ahead of schedule can be taken back to unit members’ respective home stations.

“My goal with implementing the Agile framework was to improve speed, productivity, and quality,” said LaBanca. “I am very happy with the level of commitment my senior noncommissioned officers here have shown to try something different and encourage their Airmen to do the same.”