PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Just as athletes or sporting teams train and practice different scenarios to hone their skills to win, it’s no different for the Air Force. The Air Force has regular inspections and exercises to enhance their war-fighting skills by identifying benchmark practices as well as areas for improvement.
Wing Inspector General Inspections Divisions and process managers are key to ensuring wings are ready by identifying ways to be more efficient.
“Our mantra in the IG Inspections world is mission readiness is equal to inspection readiness; but, beyond that we want to continuously improve,” said Lt. Col. Alan Flolo, Director of Inspections, 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, during a meeting with the 403rd Wing Inspector General inspections team and process manager April 23-24, 2018 at Peterson.
Like the 302nd AW, the 403rd Wing is a tenant Air Force Reserve unit on an active duty installation, but based at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Keesler team met with Flolo and Maj. Pam Potter, 302nd AW process manager, to learn more about how each wing implements their programs.
“The Air Force has been pushing process improvement in different forms for a long time and the new one is Continuous Process Improvement,” said Maj. Lisa Breal, 403rd Wing Director of Inspections. “We are here to learn more about how IG Inspections and the process manager work together.”
The Air Force implemented the AF Inspection System in 2013. According to Air Force Instruction 1-2, Commanders Responsibilities, and AFI 90-201, The Air Force Inspection System, AFIS evaluates four major graded areas of wing readiness: Managing Resources, Leading People, Improving the Unit and Executing the Mission.
Several changes came with that new system. According to AFI 90-201, AFIS is designed to foster a culture of critical self-assessment and continuous improvement. It also places more control and responsibility in the hands of the squadron, group and wing commanders, and overall program management of wing inspections was placed in the hands of the wing inspector general’s office.
“The AFI is written very broadly to provide wings with flexibility on how to build and run their inspection and process improvement programs,” said Breal. “However, it’s helpful to visit another wing that runs an effective and interactive inspection and process improvement program.”
The intent of AFIS is for wings to self-inspect, report findings, and fix deficiencies, said Breal.
“It’s still in the infancy stages when it comes to changing our culture from ramping up for inspections to a culture of critical self-assessment, looking at our own trends, and trying to identify ways to improve our processes to make us more efficient.”
“We want a culture where Airmen can grow up in today’s Air Force and think critically on how to improve processes and be more efficient,” said Flolo.
The inspections division in the IG office is charged with managing the commander’s inspection program, which manages the self-assessment and wing inspection and exercise piece.
“We are looking to test processes,” said Breal. “We are the checks and balances for the entire wing. AFIS now focuses on readiness, and that determines what we look at. Our purpose is to validate whether or not we are mission ready.”
Through these events, IG Inspections identify areas where the wing needs some work, known as observations or deficiencies, both of which require a corrective action plan.
“Some of these areas may be easy fixes, but not all of them are, and that’s where the performance manager can assist,” said Breal.
“The performance manager looks at what the root cause of an issue might be, how it can be fixed or find an innovative way to maximize Air Force resources and increase efficiencies in areas such as people, money and time,” said Chief Master Sgt. Monte Snyder, 403rd Wing Process Manager.
And no process is perfect, so there is always room for improvement, said Flolo.
“It’s not about doing more with less, but more so with prioritizing your tasks and using your resources to focus on those things that need to be accomplished,” said Snyder.
“It’s about working smarter, not harder,” added Flolo.
One of the processes discussed was the weekly Commander Inspection Management Board meetings both wings have implemented.
The IG is required to provide the wing commander with a quarterly update on the readiness of their wing through the CIMB. This is a forum where wing leaders discuss key performance indicators and determine countermeasures for areas that may need improvement.
Both wing IG offices have found value in having the meetings more frequently. The 302nd has been doing these weekly meetings for more than a year and the 403rd started having weekly CIMBs in January.
“If we didn’t have weekly meetings things would move so much slower; this way we keep leadership aware of the status of their inspection program,” said Flolo.
Both wings also include the performance manager in these meetings. The 302nd performance manager engages with their unit commanders to assist them with their corrective actions plans.
If a commander has questions about the status of their CAP, the process manager is there to answer any questions they might have, said Flolo.
“CPI has to be at the forefront of leadership’s mind at all times,” he added.
For Breal, it was proof of concept.
“Leadership buy in is key for this program,” said Breal. “If we want the program to be successful and want commanders to be engaged in their inspection program, these meetings need to be conducted on a regular basis.”
For Maj. Devon Meister, who is a pilot and started in the IG office in December, learning how the 302nd structured their office and divided their processes was very insightful, she said.
“Both our wings have the same challenges, and it was really good to visit and collaborate with them,” she said.
Other take aways for the 403rd IG Inspections team was that building a relationship with the host unit IG and taking part in their exercises is vital to a successful program, said Breal.
“AFIS is here to stay; we are not going to get more money; we are not going to get more people,” said Breal. “We will be expected to self-monitor and fix our programs. Between IG Inspections and the process manager this is what we have been charged to do; we are the tools you can use to do more with less and be more efficient.”