Commentary

July 12, 2013

Leading change

Lt. Colonel Rodney Jorstad
Tyndall AFB, Fla.

How many times have you been waiting in a line for service wondering why something takes so long when it seems like it should be an easy process? Or worse, you waited in line and finally get to the customer service representative and find out you are missing a document and must come back later?

You leave frustrated and wonder why someone doesn’t fix the process, or have a way to let you know you needed the document before you waited in line.

Finally, you compose yourself, get the needed document and return to stand in line the next day. You’re are prepared this time! You wait in line again, get to the front of the line and feel obligated to tell the new customer service representative at the window the situation from the previous day only to find out you really didn’t need the document after all.

Does this describe where you work?

How do we change our processes to be less frustrating for the end user of our services or products we supply as Air Force members?

Change starts with you. You are trained to be an expert in your field: use your expertise to critically review how you do your job and the functions you perform daily.

Utilize an “outsider” perspective to determine if steps in a process are value added for the end user or an internal requirement. If a step doesn’t add value, determine if it is required by law or instruction. The idea here is to eliminate waste or legacy processes that are no longer applicable to what you do today.

Identifying waste and developing solutions to improve your day-to-day processes is a great way to achieve a deeper understanding of your specialty and develop leadership skills. It can be done at any level.

Your leaders are looking for people to find ways to be more efficient by cutting wasted time and money on unnecessary processes, or steps in a process. Leading change can be challenging, but starting early in your career with small projects will help develop the skills needed to affect change on a larger scale.

How do you get started leading change in your organization? First, realize the need to change and determine how to improve your job or efficiency.

Most problems in processes are communication issues, especially between organizations or sections. Determining the communication breakdown and developing a solution is a great way to get started improving your workplace.

Next, discuss your idea with a few trusted peers, get their input and adjust fire as needed. Technology is not always the answer; remember to keep things simple.

Your new process or change needs to be sustainable.

The challenge is the few people who refuse to change after most people are ready to implement your plan. If they are not on board it can cause mission failure for your new idea to improve your work area.

Determine why they are not behind the plan. Some people are only motivated by the “what’s in it for me” mentality. Highlight how your change will make their job easier or how it improves your customers’ satisfaction or saves money or time.

Learning what motivates people and how to get them to change will develop you as a leader.

The most difficult part of leading change is sustaining the improvements made. Most of us are in organizations that turn over personnel on a continuous basis, so having the new process written down and captured in operating instructions is paramount to ensuring your change doesn’t revert back to the old way of doing things. There is a reason it was broken in the first place, and many times you will find it is because the process was never written down and people have developed their own way of completing their tasks.

So the next time you are frustrated at a process or standing in line, think about your job. What can you do to lead change in your organization and create a better experience for your customers?




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