Air Force simplifies quality processes
Released: 2 Feb 2000
by Tech. Sgt. Michael Spaits
Air Force Print News
WASHINGTON -- Quality isn't going away, but the Air Force is making some major changes in the way it's applied by simplifying and focusing on "operationalizing" quality through mission-essential tasks and improving mission capability.
"If we perform our assigned mission tasks with excellence and improve that performance in a measurable way, we are operationalizing quality," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan.
To help units get started, the Air Force has published guidelines explaining the processes, procedures and tasks associated with operationalizing quality in the Air Force. Air Force Instruction 90-1102, Performance Management, focuses on how mission-essential tasks are accomplished, and how using performance management principles will improve Air Force organizations.
"We eventually called it 'Performance Management,' but that's a term. What it really is, is trying to put very clearly in front of ourselves the things we need to do in the Air Force, and then figure out how to do them better," Ryan said.
According to Maj. Bob Henson of the Air Force Manpower Plans office, while both the Total Quality Management and Quality Air Force approaches were successful programs, many blue suiters considered them difficult to grasp and time-consuming additional duties. The Performance Management program, he said, provides clear guidance on refocusing our improvement efforts on getting results rather than prescribing the process.
The Performance Management steps are plan, do and assess. They allow commanders and senior leaders to define their overall goals, then determine their mission-essential tasks. If done correctly, every individual in the Air Force should know how their job links to a MET. As the unit performs its mission, the tasks are measured for effectiveness and efficiency, then assessed for improvement or modification.
This is the essence of the Air Force Performance Management Program.
"Now, quite honestly, if you can't describe it, and then measure it, we probably ought to question whether we ought to be doing it," Ryan said. "If you can't connect it to the next level of tasks that the Air Force needs to do, then maybe we ought to look at it as a (task to be) out-sourced, or a task that maybe we shouldn't do at all."
This philosophy may come as a pleasant change from the "old way" of doing business as it provides leaders a tool to determine what needs to be done and, more importantly, if it's being done right.
Henson said Performance Management is an evolution in the quality journey, not a departure; and will provide significant benefits to Air Force units, especially during periods of shrinking budgets.
"This approach to quality takes no special training like the old Quality Air Force," he said. "We will simply measure our performance of mission essential tasks and maximize our returns on those efforts.
"It's all about prioritization; it's like going into a grocery store with just a few dollars in your pocket. You decide what's most important and purchase those things first. Your measure of success: did your family get fed? Your assessment: is the family satisfied, healthy, and happy; and what future concerns should I have about the price of milk?" he said.
Among other changes associated with the program, unit self-inspections are now a thing of the past. Now, units will focus on reviewing the performance of their tasks, rather than prescribing a process for the task.
"What it means," Henson said, "is we are now going to measure how well we perform the mission based on real benchmarks that can be used in comparing one unit to another."
The bottom line is still about flying, fighting and winning, and this new tool is designed to help units do those better, faster and cheaper.
Ryan said, "It's about saving resources, doing the job better; but, ultimately, it has to do with the missions that are entrusted to the United States Air Force. And each one of those missions has a piece of it that has to do with people's lives -- either putting them at risk, or protecting them. And this mission-essential task business has got to connect to that."
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