56th MXG frees up time for leaders to connect with Airmen

Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Clinton Atkins

Maj. Lexie Greene (right), 56th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Schrick (third from the left), 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent, speak to a crew of four F-35 maintenance Airmen during a Gemba walk June 5, 2018. The 56th Maintenance Group implemented a trial run of using the leadership tool called a Gemba walk June 5-7 suspending administrative tasks to allow leaders to engage with Airmen in the work center and on the flightline.

The 56th Maintenance Group at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., implemented a trial run of what they’re calling a “Gemba” event June 5-7, which allows leaders more time to connect with Airmen in the work centers and on the flightline.

Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place”. A Gemba walk is a business practice used in civilian industries that allows leaders to visit their subordinates in their work environment and interact face-to-face.

During the event, senior noncommissioned officers and above were freed from administrative tasks and meeting requirements to instead dedicate that time to get out of their offices and communicate with their 2,200 maintenance Airmen.

“The freedom of not being tied to a computer will allow us to see the issues the Airmen face with our own eyes and will make it easier for us to figure out how to better help them accomplish the mission,” said Maj. Lexie Greene, maintenance operations officer for the 56th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Being shackled to a desk is no small thing, said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Schrick, 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent.

“Roughly 80 percent of our job, as a senior leader, is spent on administrative tasks and attending meetings,” he said. “Having that time back so we can focus on our Airmen will be very beneficial.”

Schrick and Greene hope that as senior leaders walk through work centers and on the flightline they’ll be able to resolve any safety and equipment concerns they may find.

“Safety is paramount to what we do here at Luke, especially now that the temperature gets into the 100s every day,” said Greene. “Having the freedom to spend all the time we need to make to make sure our Airmen have the necessary resources to keep our aircraft flying as safely and efficiently as possible is a huge win for the organization.

“By doing these Gemba walks, we can drastically shorten the chain of communication and eliminate wasted time waiting for concerns at the lowest level to reach the top, which will hopefully allow us to address concerns much more efficiently,” she said.

Within an hour of their first Gemba walk, Schrick and Greene were already identifying solutions to issues their maintenance Airmen experience.

“It was exciting to get to see the positive reactions and instant feedback from our Airmen. Being out on the flightline in a setting where they feel more comfortable, rather than in a leader’s office, really allows them to communicate more openly,” said Greene.

Based on the success of this Gemba event, the 56th MXG may permanently integrate the leadership technique into their routine.