RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Innovation and Transformation Office hosted more than 40 leaders from units throughout the major command to one of two continuous process improvement senior leader courses at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, during the week of Jan. 9 to 13.
The two-day courses offered leaders from all levels the opportunity to learn how to better leverage the CPI resources they have within their organizations.
“I’ve always looked at CPI not as a program I run, but one that Airmen run,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, USAFE-AFAFRICA vice commander, at the beginning of the course. “I believe the worst thing I can do is take a program like this and top-down direct it. What I love about this program is every individual is empowered to make a difference, but if you’ve got leadership who don’t allow them to, they’re never going to have the opportunity to make that difference.”
Air Force leaders have recognized the need to become a slimmer and more efficient organization; they have also recognized the need to look at the improvement methods in a different way.
“If you look at the definition of a lean organization, any definition you might find out there in literature or in industry, and compare it to the culture of the Air Force as it is now, you’ll see they are not the same,” said Phil Chansler, Air University Assistant Professor of Management Operations and CPI Senior Leader Course instructor. “There are certain things in a lean organization that aren’t really compatible with the way the Air Force does business.”
A lean organization is one that understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal of a lean organization is to provide more value for customers with fewer resources.
Chansler said lean ideas can come from anywhere and anyone and this course helped leaders reduce the negative effects that can occur when becoming a more lean organization—especially in an organization as regimented as the Air Force.
“In my view, the Senior Leader Course is to give an understanding of how to better manage the CPI resources they might have, as well as strategy development for their organizations,” Chansler said.
The Senior Leader course not only gives leaders the tools needed to enable specially trained facilitators, Green and Black Belts, within their units but also be willing to see the ideas for change come from any Airman.
“You and I have to be that open mind, then we will get the absolute real change we really need,” Zadalis said.
Though much of the course was in-class instruction, the attendees also had a chance to tour a John Deere factory to see how a civilian organization implements some of the tools with which the leaders were being equipped.
At the John Deere factory, the leaders were able to see and hear firsthand how effective and motivated a team can be when their leaders encourage them to make improvements from the ground up, echoing Zadalis’ challenge to them.
“My challenge to you: you’ve got to be receptive and encourage those who can really make a difference,” Zadalis said. “You know your program is successful when your Airmen are not looking to you for the things they need to look at, but rather they are looking to you to inspire and support them because they have already found what needs to change.”