WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- When Air Force Materiel Command Commander, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., launched the AFMC We Need campaign in 2019, many were skeptical if true change would result from the study. However, one year later, the initiative continues to drive success across the mission, bringing positive change and improvements, moving the command closer to the ideal set in motion by the operation’s pursuit.
“We’re continuing our drive to improve,” said Bunch. “We’re going to continue to do things like hiring and onboarding people faster, developing stronger leaders, being more agile and getting technology into the field at the speed of relevance. These are all part of the AFMC We Need to lead our Air Force into the future.”
With the initial feedback citing information technology infrastructure, communication, facilities, hiring and leadership development as high-priority areas for improvement, the command released an updated Strategic Plan with four lines of effort to help direct not only the work being accomplished across the command, but the actions under the AFMC We Need effort.
The LOEs are:
- Increase Readiness and Lethality
- Speed with Discipline
- Strengthen Our Teams
- Foster Trusted Connection
AFMC We Need initiatives are being executed by individual Airmen and teams at every level throughout the command, but the Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives Office, which reports directly to the AFMC Deputy Commander, Lt. Gen. Carl Schaefer, serves as the focal point for Airman-driven mission enhancement, continuous process improvement and innovation at the headquarters level.
“Our team’s mission is to ‘Innovate, Accelerate, and Integrate’ by identifying and communicating innovative solutions, lessons learned and best practices to ensure AFMC's organizational structure, authorities, policies, procedures and culture optimally posture the command to support the Air Force and the National Defense Strategy,” said Kim Norman, chief of Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives Office. “We collaborate with our headquarters’ directorate, center and wing experts and innovators to accelerate both local and enterprise-wide solutions that will help us become the AFMC We Need. We also work with units to find solutions and resources that can support them in executing our critical missions for the Air Force.”
While each of the focus areas have a number of projects in progress, a large portion fall under the umbrella of increasing readiness and lethality. This LOE encompasses efforts to improve facility deficits, user IT experience and drive both near- and long-term innovative solutions to better enable AFMC to meet the needs of a modern Air Force.
“While facility deficits exist across AFMC, COVID-19 has shown us that it’s possible to work successfully in alternate work environments,” said Norman. “Though we continue to focus on everything from modular facilities, leasing and partnerships to augment space limitations, we’ve also accelerated efforts to develop long-term telework guidelines and improve IT experiences across the command. A large part of the AFMC We Need is looking at new and innovative ways our Airmen can successfully execute our missions.”
Under the LOE Speed with Discipline, teams are focusing on ways to drive greater speed and agility into AFMC processes, both internal as well as those which incorporate external entities. By re-examining lines of authority and responsibilities, the goal is to streamline processes and remove organizational and bureaucratic stovepipes that hinder rapid, agile execution of mission needs.
Some of the efforts under LOE 2 include the development of a Digital Innovation Dashboard, with the aim to bring senior leaders, program offices, stakeholders, Spark Cells and Airmen to the forefront of data-driven decisions. With a cohesive sight picture that incorporates all stakeholders, decisions can be made more rapidly and in a way that meets the needs of all.
An AFMC Capabilities Assessment is also in progress, with the AFMC We Need team partnering with RAND and Project AIR FORCE to assist in an analysis of the roles, missions and associated authorities and responsibilities from Air Force down the chain of responsibility. The results and recommendations from the project team will be used to create changes that can help the command more effectively execute missions in all areas.
“To deliver the technology our Air Force needs at the speed of relevance, we need to be able to execute with speed and agility,” said Bunch. “By identifying and eliminating organizational stovepipes, we can streamline processes and better meet the needs of the Air Force and accomplish the National Defense Strategy.”
Integral to the AFMC We Need are the Airmen, military and civilian, across the command executing missions daily. LOE 3 focuses on building the strength of AFMC Airmen and teams to ensure the command has the manpower and resources required to deliver what the Air Force needs now and into the future.
In addition to a strong focus on hiring top-level, skilled talent to fill vacancies across the command, a dedicated acculturation effort is underway to ensure new hires are brought onboard rapidly and are provided with the knowledge and training required to begin work immediately. A renewed emphasis on supervisor and leadership training aims to ensure civilian and military Airmen have the knowledge, skills and training to effectively lead AFMC teams across the mission set. An upcoming Agile Patriot professional development conference will help to develop mid-tier AFMC Airmen and prepare them to assume leadership roles in the future as well.
The command is also focused on leveraging the ideas of Airmen to innovate the way the command executes missions daily. The inaugural AFMC Spark Tank competition resulted in more than 100 innovative idea submissions through the Air Force Ideation platform. An ongoing AFMC We Need Ideascale Campaign continues to encourage Airmen and civilians to submit ideas that have the potential to improve business practices and mission activities, with the possibility of receiving funding and support to further develop and have them implemented across AFMC.
“Our Airmen are developing innovative solutions and finding ways to improve our missions every day. Often these local solutions can benefit a wider command and Air Force audience,” said Schaefer. “We need their inputs to build the AFMC We Need.”
The final LOE focuses on fostering trusted connections, which includes ensuring strong lines of communication exist both internally and externally. The ability to ‘hear and be heard’ is foundational to the trust required to successfully execute mission tasks.
To facilitate greater understanding of issues related to diversity and inclusion, leaders continue to host sensing sessions providing Airmen with an opportunity to share personal experiences as a means of helping to shape future courses of action in this area. Human resource teams are hosting focus groups to help identify training deficits and future needs across the command. The AFMC Connect was launched early in 2020, providing commanders and teams with resources to help build team cohesion and resiliency.
In addition, leaders across AFMC continue to host virtual town hall sessions to ensure Airmen have the critical information related to COVID-19, return to full capacity activities and all other aspects of Air Force and AFMC activities. These events not only provide the opportunity for Airmen to hear directly from leadership, but they also enable them to ask questions and provide feedback to leaders as well.
“A need for improved communication was a key finding in the AFMC We Need survey,” said Norman. “We continue to focus on building connections and finding ways to ensure our Airmen are informed and can have their voices be heard as we move forward.”
Changes resulting from the AFMC We Need will continue to roll out across the command, and ongoing Airmen support and willingness to transform will be critical to the initiative’s continued success.
“As a command, it is important that we continue to listen to our Airmen and find ways to break down barriers they face. Our greatest resource is our Airmen, and it is through their ingenuity that we will find solutions to our most challenging problems,” said Bunch. “Together we can build and achieve the AFMC We Need.”