Q: Is AFSO related to the manpower cuts from PBD 716/720?
A: AFSO is about generating efficiencies to improve combat capability. AFSO is a process improvement effort and cultural change to enable the remaining Airmen to work more efficiently and effectively; focusing on what is most important while eliminating all types of waste (time, money, effort, etc.) The manpower cuts were mandated as a result of BRAC and QDR decisions. While some AFSO initiatives may identify areas where we can reduce manpower; that is not the driving factor behind the program.
Q: Does AFSO have a going-in position of eliminating manpower positions?
A: The impetus for AFSO is the need for the Air Force to drive continuous improvement and innovation beyond our technology advances and into our day-to-day processes. It is about providing Airmen with the tools to improve their end-to-end processes. The elimination of waste in the process may provide increased efficiencies, decreases in materials and equipment and a need for less manpower in that particular function, but it does not necessarily mean any particular position will be eliminated.
Q: What happens when we initiate an improvement and find out we no longer need as much manpower? Do we improve ourselves out of a job?
A: The AFSO Rapid Improvement Events are designed to increase efficiencies within processes. They are not designed to be “personnel cut drills.” If, in the course of an event, it is determined that certain manpower positions are no longer required, those positions can be re-assigned to other areas that can use them.
Q: A lot of our success with Lean has to do with the going in position that Lean improvements did not mean they were going to cut slots, but that they could better use the existing manpower to value-added activities. How will improvements in AFSO affect my job?
A: Various components of AFSO will allow the Air Force to use the best practices of the business world to improve work processes. Along with Lean, we use Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, and Business Process Re-engineering to continue the Air Force's journey into higher quality and better performance. AFSO will enable you and all Airmen to better identify waste, create opportunities for improvement, and quickly act to improve.
Q: Why is AFSO coming out the same time we have all these manpower positions to cut?
A: The Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force decided that it made sense to implement the practices AF-wide. So, it’s a bit of a coincidence that “AFSO” is being launched as BRAC and QDR decisions are implemented in a separate initiative. That being said, removing waste from the various processes in the AF via AFSO will certainly help us to become more effective and efficient.
There are many challenges confronting the Air Force (GWOT and associated new and evolving mission requirements, financial constraints, an aging fleet) dictating a need for action to find and eliminate waste in all we do. AFSO will eliminate those work processes or steps in work processes not providing value to achieving the Air Force mission. The by-product is to generate savings in a constrained budget environment that can be used to recapitalize the Air Force. AFSO focuses on meeting warfighter demands, not just producing warfighter supplies. Everyone will benefit from AFSO.
Q: What will happen to "my" career field?
A: Specific processes will be looked at if deemed appropriate by their respective MAJCOM commander. Changes won’t likely affect entire career fields, but they may affect someone from your career field as part of a specific process improvement.
Q: You tell me that I won't have to do more with less, but eventually the tasks come back and I'll have less manning.
A: The primary goal of AFSO is, in effect, “doing less with less.” Working smarter and more efficiently aren’t new concepts. The whole idea is that many of the things that we currently do don’t actually add value to the end product, so once we identify those actions, we’ll eliminate them.
Q: Will the full-time people be out-of-hide, or will we try to hire consultants for every base?
A: While the training and manning plans are still in coordination, we don’t envision key workers to be stationed in every unit. Below the AF-level, there will likely be one trained facilitator at each major command, and possibly one at each wing. They will help units with their Rapid Improvement Events instead of training someone in each small unit. Consultants are being used until AF training and credentialing details are decided.
Q: When will I get trained on how to implement AFSO?
A: Standardized training courses, venues, and requirements are still being decided. Most likely, an overview course will be incorporated into the programs of each AF accession source, and will also be presented to current Total Force. Individuals involved in actual Rapid Improvement Events will receive further training in conjunction with their event. Additionally, AF senior leaders are being scheduled to attend executive training courses.
Q: What training should I focus on? Are there going to be different levels or will everyone train to the same level?
A: At this time, Airmen can expect that everyone will receive some basic AFSO (8-Step) training that may encompass some reading and a few hours to 1 day of classroom instruction. Key wing, MAJCOM and higher AFSO personnel will receive additional training on more comprehensive methods and facilitation techniques. There will be variations in the level of training based on the role you will play during continuous improvement events. Exact training requirements are still to be determined.
Q: Do I have to set up a wing office with full time people like back in the QAF days?
A: We are beta testing a move of squadron-level Manpower personnel to the Wing-level. This was approved by AETC/CC in March 2015, but the details are still being coordinated.
Q: I've got a great idea on improving (state the process x); what should I do?
A: First, you need to work it at the wing level. If the wing needs additional resources/help to accomplish the improvement, the MAJCOM AFSO leads will address the issue and in turn may involve Headquarters Air Force.
Q: How long will it take?
A: Continuous process improvement does not end. This will be a fundamental change in the mindset of many Air Force personnel. Once a process is improved and implemented, it will not take very long to realize there are still more improvements to make. AFSO is an ongoing, continuous improvement process.
Q: How do you intend on cutting through the bureaucracy and politics?
A: Air Force and DoD leadership are spearheading AFSO. The Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force are driving this program…it’s led from the top down with the absolutely vital input and action from the lowest levels in our Air Force…the flight. Members of flights and squadrons best know their processes and have a good understanding of how to improve them. Leadership is committed to helping break down the barriers that are preventing more efficient operations.
Q: When will we get to the mindset of joint systems?
A: OSD is also driving the continuous process improvement efforts and each service has a version of AFSO. As each service better understands its end-to-end processes, expect the improvements to flow into the joint arena for even greater improvements/efficiencies.
Q: Where do I fit in and how will I use this day-to-day?
A: Everyone is a player in AFSO. It takes the entire team to realize improvements in just about any process. What may seem like a very simple process usually turns out to be much more complicated than anyone originally thought. You will no doubt provide a key part of the process and will help provide insight on where to eliminate waste in the process. It’s the new Airman that will ask why are we doing it this way and will see through the unnecessary steps. Regardless of your rank, you will play a significant role.
Q: How will this affect my wing?
A: That will be up to the wing commander and major command commander. We aren't providing a list of events that each wing has to accomplish. We are working to provide a set of tools that the commander's can use to improve how they accomplish their work. AFSO will help the wing commander deal with accomplishing his mission with fewer people.
Q: Isn’t this TQM all over again?
A: AFSO is very far removed from TQM. AFSO is a unique Air Force program that seeks to use selected portions of tools from industry (Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Business Process Reengineering) to continuously improve our processes. When the Air Force attempted to implement TQM, we tried to fit the Air Force processes and culture into a box that could not accommodate our needs. With much effort, we tried but it did not succeed. AFSO is about producing more combat capability. By eliminating unnecessary processes/steps, your time can be better-spent accomplishing tasks that provide value to the overall mission. TQM brought more work than it got rid of, AFSO will get rid of more work than it brings. AFSO takes an end-to-end look at how each process is accomplished, assigns a primary owner and looks to eliminate waste. TQM didn’t look at processes from end-to-end.
Q: If this is top driven, will we have any input as to what processes to change/eliminate?
A: Everyone will contribute. You should strive to identify wasteful processes in your section and provide that input to your supervisors. Everyone is a part of AF Smart Operations.
Q: Won’t this program/fad die out just like TQM? If I wait it out long enough, will it go away?
A: The principles in AFSO are how we will think about work and operate in the future. If we get it right, it will simply become part of our daily operating principles. If we get it wrong, it will fade away.
Q: Doesn't this process assume people are not capable or willing to improve? It seems to insult their efforts.
A: The program gives everyone an opportunity to be heard and improve the processes used to accomplish the Air Force mission. We are giving Airmen a common method to drive continuous improvement in a sustainable manner.
Q: Are we just being told again to work smarter and not harder?
A: We know everyone is working as best they can…smart, the way they’ve been trained and told to do it. The Air Force recognizes that over the years, we have pieced together processes to help accomplish our tasks/actions. It’s time now to take a good look at these processes and engineer them from beginning to end to produce the most efficient way of doing business. We are the best Air Force in the world and have very smart people doing an outstanding job in the system they are in and the tools they’ve been provided. Now it’s time to take that expertise and find out the best, engineered way to accomplish a task.
Q: How will we fund this?
A: AFSO must be self-financing with efficiencies helping cover the cost of implementation. Some upfront cost will be required, but much of it will be the time of our leaders and Airmen.
Q: Who is responsible for AFSO and its success?
A: All Airmen will participate in AFSO and are responsible for its success. AFSO is as much a culture change for our Air Force as was the implementation of the Expeditionary Air Force. AFSO is more than the application of a toolkit - it is institutionalizing an Air Force operating style combining innovative Airmen spirit and heritage with a relentless pursuit of process excellence.