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Dyess selected as example base for Lean processes

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Dyess has been designated by the Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command vice commanders to be the 2006 Air Force Operational Command and Control Pathfinder unit.

That means Dyess is being asked by the Air Force to take a look at some processes in operational support and make suggestions, using outside help, to come up with better processes -- ones that are quicker and more efficient, with fewer errors, and that can benefit the whole Air Force.

The focus of the program is to enhance command and control situational awareness, reduce Airmen’s efforts, improve quality of life, and decrease cycle time.

“(In the Air Force), we’re doing a lot of things that don’t necessarily need to be done,” said Lt. Col. Craig Campbell, 7th Bomb Wing plans and programs. “This is an approach we’re taking to see where we can be more efficient and flexible -- to work on the process we do.”

He said Dyess -- the 7th Bomb Wing and the 317th Airlift Group -- was designated to be the next Pathfinder unit by Gen. William Hobbins, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Component Command, and director, Joint Air Power Competency Center; and Lt. Gen. Chris Kelly, AMC vice commander.

“Langley Air Force Base was the first Pathfinder unit,” Colonel Campbell said. “Now, we’re taking over for them.”

He said the initial tasking was sent in November 2005; and now that the operational readiness inspection is over, Dyess is ready to take the Lean concept and run with it.

“Dyess would be a superb match because it has both combat Air Force and mobility Air Force units providing operational support command and control with a virtual composite Pathfinder unit,” said Maj. Gen. Tommy Crawford, Air Force C2 intelligence, survival and reconnaissance center commander.

“We’re at the very beginning of defining the processes we want to look at,” Colonel Campbell said. “We want to take a broad approach on things that would benefit Dyess not only as an ACC base, but also as an AMC tenant base. And we’re not just talking about war-fighting operations; we’re looking at the way we do awards and decorations, enlisted and officer performance reports, emergency management programs, recalls, Phase I lines, and many other things.”

For example, he said, many EPRs are reviewed by up to 15 people -- and that’s a waste of time.

“As part of the Lean process, they’ve found you’re more efficient and have fewer errors if you use fewer steps,” Colonel Campbell said. “Humans have a tendency to make errors. When things bounce to and from multiple people, things sometimes get misconstrued.”

They want to determine where they can pick what he called those “low-hanging fruits,” he said. “Those processes we think we can make the most bang for our buck in the shortest amount of time.”

To do so, he said, leadership will take what they call a “value stream analysis” to look at how to break a process down into its individual pieces and parts and find out all that needs to be done in order to achieve the end goal.

For instance, he said, “Take anything that has to do with operational support. Because that’s such a large ball, you have to break it into individual pieces and parts -- from how
your survival and recovery center operates to how administration deals with EPRs and OPRs, recall functions, command post functions, and battle grams (among other things).”

The new Lean implementation will affect the entire base, he said.

“Everyone will be involved on one level or another. Everyone’s going to learn more about Lean (‘How can I do things better?’), which will be accomplished through work within the squadrons and training initiatives. There are a lot of folks out there who know that there are better ways to do stuff. Lean allows these folks an opportunity to express themselves and say, ‘Hey, this is taking too long; there’s a better way to do this.’”

He said they plan to identify areas that need improvement by going back to the value stream analysis -- taking an area to concentrate on, getting experts together, talking about the processes, mapping out the process, and developing a stream of information.

“If something is no longer providing value, we’ll cut it out,” Colonel Campbell said.

That will be particularly useful five or six years from now, he said, when the Air Force has 40,000 fewer people.

“The whole idea behind Lean is not cutting people, but finding better means to utilize people in what they need to be doing rather than wasting their time.”

It’s not that the Air Force has a wasteful number of people, he said.

“It’s that we have processes we have to identify as time-wasters. If I have five people doing a process, those are five people who may be spending time doing things that may not be benefiting the Air Force to the fullest extent. If I’m able to get the same product done with three people instead of five, those other two can be doing something else.”

If it means there will be cuts in positions which the Air Force may benefit from, he said, then the Air Force will be doing “less with less” by being more efficient in what it does from day to day.

He said he plans to poll the entire base, from airman basics on up, for their input on ways to “cut the fat” from their everyday processes.

“There’s no value for me to sit in a room with master sergeants, majors, and colonels without bringing in company grade officers, Airmen, and young noncommissioned officers who are actually doing the processes we’re discussing,” he said. “When we start asking, ‘What do you really do to get this done?’ what we find out is that there are a lot more steps people take than were first identified.”

The first step in making changes, he said, is to identify the big picture: how this base operates when a tasking comes down or when there’s an emergency on base or an Air Tasking Order in a deployed location.

“Often times in the past,” he said, “When the base has done (analysis studies) on management styles, (leadership has) identified where they are, compared to where they want to be; but we didn’t define the process or manner in which they planned to improve. What we want to try to do is understand the process we’re in right now and find areas in which we can cut waste. We’re helping identify for the rest of the Air Force those areas in which we can do less with less, and open up more time to do our actual jobs.”

But it won’t do any good if we do it on Dyess and don’t let anyone else know, Colonel Campbell said, “So we’ll brief to the commanders what we’ve done, with no-kidding empirical numbers. We’re going to be an example by getting assistance from outside agencies (subject matter experts) to identify some of the low-hanging fruit -- the processes we think we can make quick and efficient changes to and have an impact Air Force-wide.”

If we can be more efficient, it will benefit us in the long run, he said.