Thursday, January 3, 2013

COMMENTARY>>Looking back to the future

By Col. Ray Jeter
19th Medical Group commander

Last week as we dug out from our Christmas Day and day-after snowfall I had an opportunity to collect my thoughts on the contents of this article. The time of year this article comes out also forces one to reflect on the past year and how we can be successful this year.

Little Rock Air Force Base had many opportunities in the past year to weigh our activities; we had successes and some misadventures. We hosted multiple distinguished visitors, we sent Airmen forward and brought them home, we held numerous exercises and also produced a world-class airshow. Reviewing these events we can really demonstrate that our shining moments occurred when we defined what our intent was; pragmatically planned ahead; we communicated our intent and the associated plan broadly; and then when we actually engaged, we had flexibility and know-how to adjust to the situation.

In 2013 we will have many of the same opportunities. Like you, I prefer successful, good outcomes verses the alternative. Looking at 2012, we can see our successes really became predictable when our Airmen leaders framed their initial intent on a given project and then socialized it with their peers. When you look at some recent examples I can think of two vastly different events: the 2012 LRAFB AirPower Arkansas Airshow and the 2012 Holiday Cookie drop. Each project had a lead Airman (albeit vastly different ranks) and each lead had a clean intent of where they saw their project when it executed. Each lead Airman formed a team of peers to develop a plan of execution that complemented the intent of where they wanted to be. Linking their strategy to the intent, always keeping it as their touchstone, really allowed the teams to dismiss the red herrings and focus on the necessary.

Communication seems to always come up when we assess our good and bad points; both at home and at work. This held true this past year. On the examples above, we socialized each unit’s, and to a degree, each Airman’s role in the success of the projects based on their plans. For the Airshow we socialized the plan at Team Little Rock, table topped the event and actually exercised some critical components the weeks before. For the Cookie Drop our team repeatedly socialized the plan through various means using clear instructions, identifying key points of contact and roles and responsibilities.

When the events came, in this case the Airshow or the Cookie Drop; sticking to the plan but ready to modify as circumstance required occurred and it happened easily because the planners built a plan based on the leads intent. When plans seem to no longer support the intent, restating the intent, then realigning to place the vector back on to the intent usually fixes the plan. For this to work, all Airmen need to know the intent. When it is shared horizontally and vertically within an organization the repair of the plan can happen quickly and efficiently. That was the case in these events.

There will be challenges in 2013. The 19th Airlift Wing has a CUI in September. We have changes of command, DV visits, deployments and exercises ahead of us. Look at where you want to be when each of these projects are finished. When your vector is ill-defined, reflect on where you intend to be and your decisions will be easier to make. Let your goals inform your daily activities and success will be yours.

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