What makes an organization successful?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Chris Tooman
  • 8th Maintenance Squadron commander
As I spend time looking through the dozens of leadership books that fill the shelves of bookstores everywhere, both physical and electronic, it amazes me how many different "experts" have the solution for building the perfect organization.

Whether it's creating the best multi-million dollar corporation, local franchise restaurant or Boy Scout troop, there is a model out there for you. After nearly 24 years in military service, I have been fortunate to serve in some very successful organizations, and unfortunately a few that were less successful.

I'd like to share my thoughts on the traits I believe are found in successful organizations.

First, an organization needs to understand its purpose. Everyone in the organization, from the commander to the newest Airman, must understand why the organization exists and what its primary function is. For an organization to grow, and respond to changes in the environment, it must understand the fundamental purpose for its existence.

Whether it's the around-the-clock efforts of the maintainers on the flightline, the weather and intelligence reports put out by the 8th Operations Support Squadron, the ability to operate in safe, secure and functional environments provided by the 8th Security Forces Squadron and 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, the myriad of support given by the 8th Force Support Squadron, or the "fit to fight tonight" focus of the 8th Medical Group, every member of the Wolf Pack understands his or her role in our ability to "take the fight north."

Second, successful units all possess members who have a sense of ownership and loyalty to the organization. We've all seen these units ... they're the ones where everyone identifies as a member, and is proud of it. Here at Kunsan, there's no lack of pride in any of the squadrons. On a simple walk from the dorms to the gym the other day, about a quarter mile, I was greeted with two "Crush 'em's," a "Push It Up", and a "Comm Strong."
This is far from the exception. You'd be hard-pressed to find a member of the Wolf Pack who doesn't identify with the rich history of the 8th Fighter Wing. Generally speaking, individuals don't identify themselves with an unsuccessful organization, Cubs fans excepted, of course. As a result, the members of these great organizations work hard to make sure they are the best they can be.

Finally, I have yet to witness a successful organization that doesn't possess solid leadership throughout the organization. Air power provides the United States an asymmetric advantage in any conflict. The ability to rapidly move massive amounts of people and equipment to any area on the planet, combined with the capability to place unbelievable amounts of munitions on a target within a ridiculously accurate area provides teeth to the military instrument of power that no other nation possesses.

That air power does not exist without the day-to-day leadership provided by the hard-working NCOs who handle the day-to-day tasks of fielding the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. The NCO corps is the central building block for a successful military organization. I have yet to observe a unit of any size that is successful without professional NCOs, ready to carry out the mission, solving problems as they arise, leading Airmen, enforcing standards. If you want to know the secret to a successful organization, look to the NCOs. If you want to observe a successful unit in action, look to the Wolf Pack.