Commentary

August 30, 2013

What do you mean, ‘Back to basics?

Lt. Col. David Fazenbaker
10th Airlift Squadron commander

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Last September, in his first speech as the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III advocated a back-to-basics approach for the Air Force. He noted that the missions of the Air Force have not changed over time, but rather, the terms by which we identify the missions have changed.

Welsh outlined that, from a strategic view, in order for us to continue to do what the Air Force does best, we will have to work around budgetary pressures. In recent months, we have seen those budgetary concerns come to fruition, most notably in the form of sequestration. We have felt the impact, at varying levels, of losing our civilian workforce for 20 percent of their pay periods.

In order to continue operations, we identified the minimum requirements to accomplish our mission. We’ve found that we must go back to basics.

So what does that actually mean?

To me, it means looking at every task I accomplish – every meeting and every process – then asking myself a simple question.

Why?

Why do I accomplish that task? Why is this meeting important? Why is a particular process done a certain way? Is it required by an Air Force instruction? Is it something your predecessor did, so you feel you have to also?

Understanding why we do things is the basis for identifying new processes and new ideas to improve the way we accomplish our mission.

The budgetary limitations Welsh spoke of are upon us and they will continue over the foreseeable future. As it always has been, it is our job to be good stewards of the resources we have. This is not about finding ways to do more with less; it is actually about finding ways to do less with less.

We do less by finding the tasks that are essential in our jobs and by amending existing processes or developing new ones to meet our requirements. We find these opportunities for improvement by continuing to be who we are and experts in what we do.

If you’re an expert in your career field, continue to be that expert. If you’re just starting your Air Force career, strive to be that expert. Learn your job and how to do it the best you can. Ask the “why” questions. Go back to basics and continue to make a difference.




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