Priority Five: Eliminate non-value added activities

  • Published
  • By William P. Stewart
  • 86th Airlift Wing Vice Director
Editor's note: This is article No. 5 of 5 in a series highlighting the priorities of the 86th Airlift Wing.

Over the past four weeks, you've read about our wing's strategic plan - our mission, vision and five priorities. The last of our wing's priorities is to "eliminate non-value added activities in our major processes." This is perhaps the most difficult priority to execute as the measure of merit isn't necessarily the elimination of non-value added activity from your perspective, but from the customer's perspective. The real challenge is to accurately define the real customer!

Since I was a youngster (right after the Earth cooled and dinosaurs still roamed our planet, according to my kids), I've loved auto racing of almost every kind. Auto racing is truly a team sport; from the engineers and mechanics at the home garage, to the suppliers of parts and equipment, to the crew chief and pit crew at the track and ultimately to the driver, everyone has a hand in either victory or defeat.

It's a sport where tenths of seconds are considered an eternity and team speed, accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness are prized commodities. Auto racing teams must get the biggest performance bang for every dollar spent (their budget), must proudly represent the sponsors whose names/product trademarks are emblazoned on every visible panel of the vehicle (their customer), and must ensure that their fans, in the stands or on TV/radio, see their sport and their individual teams as "heroes."

The difference between a championship-winning team and an "also ran" team may come down to just a few championship points spread across an entire season.

As I see it, the Air Force is much like that championship-winning racing team. Our nation asks us to provide "Global Reach, Global Power" and to "Fly, Fight, and Win" - any time, every time. They ask us to accomplish that mission effectively and efficiently - to be good stewards of the treasures (people and money) the nation provides us. Making sure we maximize the return on our nation's investment is essential to our success and our continued relevance.

As the final of our five wing priorities, we will ensure improvements made through the AFSO21 process aren't lost over time, but become an operational norm. Priority five is perhaps the keystone of our strategic plan as it will lead to a culture shift where every Airman (officer, enlisted, contractor, GS and host nation civilian) is focused on continuously improving existing processes to enhance our mission readiness and, when required, mission execution.

Identify major processes

Units below the wing-level can identify their major processes and work relative improvements without disrupting those of another group or squadron. Our wing will continue to support and encourage those types of improvements at every level. The real challenge is identifying, as a wing, our major processes and determining where we will get the biggest return on our investment of time, manpower and talent.

So what is a "major process" at the wing-level? While we may not have the perfect answer, the 86th Airlift Wing leadership defined these processes as those that:
1) must be done correctly for the mission to succeed
2) are resource "rich" in terms of dollars and manpower
3) cut across several 86th AW organizations
4) are critical inspection items
5) received major inspection write-ups previously.

As we move forward with our strategic planning, the 86th AW's senior leaders will nominate major processes and select those with the greatest return on investment for the full AFSO21 process review.

Analyze and implement process improvements

OK, so we've identified a "major process" for review, now what? According to Chuck Parke, executive director of the University of Tennessee's School of Business Excellence, successful organizations don't always "create" better a process. Instead, they leverage the best practices of organizations with similar processes to establish a baseline for improvement and "tweak" it to match their needs. This means that when we conduct an event, we'll have a guide as to what works, what doesn't and what the return on investment could be. The key to our long-term success will be the less glamorous follow-through with improvements and taking the administrative steps to standardize work processes.


Holding AFSO21 events is meaningless if no one knows the outcome and the results are forgotten. We will highlight our process reviews and our successes at the local, U.S. air Forces in Europe, and AF levels. Additionally, we will establish a library of best practices and share them with the goal of having our recommended process become the AF process codified in the applicable AF Instructions or Time Compliance Technical Orders.

We will also enhance our recognition program that showcases Airmen involved in our successes. Finally, we will implement a process to periodically revisit our updated processes to ensure we have the continued, desired effects.

Just like an auto racing team, our wing team must look at our processes and ensure that we've made them easily understood by all involved - effective, efficient, standardized and repeatable. In the end, combat operations are exactly like an auto race - finishing second really just means you were the first of many losers.

Teams who invest the time and effort into developing and maintaining the processes, procedures and attitude of winners find themselves on championship-winning teams - those who don't -- must wait until next time.