Eielson: Making the best better

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Andrew Hansen
  • 18th Aggressor Squadron director of operations
As noted well outside our confines here, in less than a year, the 18th Aggressor Squadron transformed from a go-to-war mission to a team dedicated to providing the best adversary training in the Air Force, and indeed the world!

A significant element of this transformation lies in the ability to harness and improve on the best practices of other organizations. Rather than reinventing, the Eielson Aggressors focus on researching and implementing the best practices, from the existing Air Force knowledge base, to building a foundation for an on-going and ever-improving Eielson effort.

In his 2006 Letter to Airman, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley described Air Force Smart Operations 21 as a challenge to commanders and supervisors to focus on process improvement within their organizations by asking, "WHY are we doing it this way?" Secretary Donley emphasized, "With AFSO 21, we will march unnecessary work out the door -- forever."

This challenge, coupled with best practices and continuous improvement processes, has been a key component of the 18th Aggressor Squadron transformation. To be the best requires that we first start with the best practices, captured from throughout the Air Force and continuously improving over time. What are the keys to building excellence?

First, look outside your organization to see how others do the same job more effectively and efficiently and integrate those same practices. As Secretary Donley so succinctly indicated, we need to think about and focus on "Why are we doing it that way?" Question each task! Is it relevant, productive and value added? Eielson personnel have been everywhere and seen everything (the good, bad and ugly). The challenge is to implement the very best ideas here. Why should we settle for less than the best in anything?

Once we have harnessed the best practices, we must strive for continuous improvement. Having the humility to understand that there is always a better way or idea to accomplish a task is critical. The best becomes better and better by small and steady advances. These are seldom big changes; in fact, the cumulative effect of many small adjustments and improvements are vital to end game excellence. If something is worth doing - it is worth doing better!

Finally, to preserve improvements, we have to document the processes within our organization. Best practices and improvements are lost or forfeited through lack of continuity resulting from poor documentation. Who has not suffered (and looked foolish) in a new position because their predecessor, while perhaps very good, did not document the basics of the position? This requires us to make and learn from the same mistakes all over again. An effective continuity book does not have to be a time-consuming effort.

Maintaining a simple calendar, which records essential tasks (large and small), supported by equally simple checklists, springboards your successor down the path to excellence.

At the end of the day, we all should leave a job and organization better than we found it. In short: ask why, improve, document - be the best!