By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Dec. 14, 2005) -- The secretary of the Air Force said the service will embark on an effort to improve itself by using private sector developed process optimization tools to become more efficient.
Two optimization tools are Lean and Six Sigma. Corporations like Toyota and General Electric have used them to catapult themselves to the top of their industries.
At conference at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Dec. 14, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne told major commands vice commanders he understands that accepting change in the Air Force would be difficult. Organizations that are in many ways already excellent often have a difficult time understanding how they can improve, he said.
"It is the most difficult process to absorb in a successful organization," he said. "Because that organization, as an organization, has little understanding of why their success needs to be altered."
Secretary Wynne told the conference attendees they were chosen to be the first to learn about the Air Force's efforts to improve itself because they were most suited to accepting change, seeing what needed to be changed, and ultimately implementing change.
"You walk into an organization, being the type-A personalities that you are, and the first thing when you look around you say, ‘What needs change around here?," he said. "That's why you are here, and why I can't have you delegate this down. Others may not see change the way you do. The other thing about this is I need for you to pass down and infect people with the opportunity for change. This is about open season on process."
Secretary Wynne said he understand some Airmen may believe that tools like Lean and Six Sigma are only for commercial businesses. But even the Air Force can benefit from applying the lessons that business has learned, he said.
"Some think, 'Lean and Six Sigma ... that applies to a corporation. We are not a corporation. We are a service organization,'" Secretary Wynne said. "And they are right. We are a service. Learning to do that service better, more effectively, is what we are all about. Making sure we don't waste a single Airman doing something that he shouldn't be doing is where it's at."
Applying tools like Lean and Six Sigma to the Air Force is about eliminating waste and finding optimal tolerances for processes so the Air Force can seek excellence in what it does. Teaching senior leaders to build a better Air Force using those tools is the purpose of the conference, Mr. Wynne said.
"We are here because we need a more effective organization to address the trials and tribulations of the future," he said. "We are here because we need to deliver a more efficient and effective Air Force on behalf of the taxpayer."
Before turning the conference over to other Air Force leaders experienced with tools like Lean and Six Sigma, Secretary Wynne asked conference attendees to imagine themselves as kings or queens for a day. He asked them to imagine what they would change immediately about their organizations, or the organizations above them, if they only had the power.
"If you were king or queen for a day, would you reduce the number of people in a combined air operations center?" he said. "Would you shorten up the lines of command authority?