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Taking Advantage of Turnover

379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander's commentary.

340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron commander's commentary.

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --

 The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Quick. Think. What is the most important thing that you learned this week at work?  Now, write it down or type it. 

If your predecessor had taught you that, how much time and energy would you have saved? How can you ensure that knowledge will benefit others?

The large majority of our offices, units, and work centers experienced massive turnover in the last month. Even if yours did not, I’m sure you noticed it in your interactions with other organizations. Some of these teams are charging forward without missing a step; others are still wandering.  The difference: the quality and repeatability of their processes.

Quality processes achieve consistent desirable results. That’s ‘why’ they exist. If we find ourselves having to ‘work around’ a process, disregard steps to get a desirable result or get our mission accomplished, then something is wrong. We must work to identify the steps in our processes that do not fit our current circumstances. Things change. Since our process was created, workload may have increased, inputs may have changed, customers’ expectations may have altered, or output could have become irrelevant. If we can’t answer ‘why’ we are doing something, we need to reexamine it or use our chain of command to find out the reason. 

Processes should also be repeatable, and need to be robust to remain effective over time – in the real workplace or environment.  A process with a single-point-of-failure, an irreplaceable person or piece of equipment, will likely eventually fall apart. For this reason, we need to train other team members to step in. We must also work to build resilience if we recognize a fragile part of our process. This resilience is important when key personnel become unavailable or resources become scarcer.     

Now…back to the really important thing you wrote down or typed at the top of this article: What did you do with it?  Does it belong in your continuity book, binder, or files?

Quality, repeatable processes are also well documented. A shared understanding of the process will make it both more resilient and more repeatable. Those involved in execution will understand the ‘why.’ Just as importantly, customers who understand processes tend to be more committed to helping make them successful. Further, when properly documented, it can become easier to identify improvements and make modifications to meet new circumstances.         

Many of our organizations are emerging from personnel swapouts. This is the perfect time to take a step back and examine what we’re doing and how we should be doing it. Then we can work to improve and become more consistent. Our teams operate at a very high level every day—let’s ensure our processes continue to support those outstanding efforts!