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Plan your next steps

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. William Smith
  • Commander, 43rd Operations Support Squadron
"Every time I go [to jail] it's a spiritual experience, you can get a lot of things done that you need to do and you can't get done in the hurly-burly of everyday life. You can think about things."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Dr. King is not the only example of someone who used time away from the "hurly-burly of everyday life" to set a course for humanity. The Apostle Paul, one of the most notable of early Christian missionaries, is said to have written up to five of his 13 epistles while imprisoned. 

Hopefully none of us will be falsely imprisoned like Dr. King and the Apostle Paul were, but the question remains: do we, as Airmen, take time to think about the direction our organizations need to go and chart a path to take them there? This question applies to all Airmen, regardless of where they stand in their current leadership structure. 

I was ecstatic at the first opportunity I had to lead an organization. One might think that because of my desire I would chart a phenomenal plan for unparalleled levels of success. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I chose to observe and learn about the organization for about a month before I implemented a plan, but even after two-plus years of leading that organization, I still did not have a definitive plan! The reason I did not have a plan is not because I had lost the desire for a plan, but simply because I did not anticipate that as soon I took charge I would have so many fires to put out. I was just happy to periodically get my head above water rather than worry about a long-term plan. 

The second opportunity I had to lead produced the same results because I was once again consumed with the "hurly-burly of everyday life." 

I have just received my third opportunity to lead while our Squadron Commander is deployed. This organization was already the Group's Squadron of the Year, so there are no immediate areas that needed fixed, therefore I chose to focus on three areas: improve our information flow process, improve/standardize our PT program and provide our Private Organization the support it needed. 

To improve the information flow, I spent time with my experts and squadron senior leadership. I granted squadron leadership access to my calendar, enabling them to see items I am focusing upon and letting them know when I am available. We also set up one executive inbox and tasker list to enable them to view all upcoming suspenses to reduce the number of slides in our staff meeting by focusing only on the ones providing information affecting the entire organization. 

To improve/standardize our PT program we first ensured all PTLs tested everyone the same way. We set aside two PT test dates and the Unit Fitness Monitor worked with the flight leadership to test everyone on those two dates. The goal of the PT program is continuous improvement, so once a month I also take the PT test. If I score less than "excellent" or if I don't score above 95 by Oct. 1 then I will pay for the fall picnic. I informed the PTLs that while I take the test I will purposely do some marginal sit-ups or push-ups and they better not count them, conditioning them to not count marginal performance. 

In order to properly support our Private Organization, I emphasized to all of the SNCO's and officers the importance of supporting the elected officers of the PO. The PO then tailored back all of the things they were asked to accomplish and focused only on the few most meaningful items. 

In a few short months I will hand the squadron back to its Commander and hopefully it will be a much better Squadron because I finally took the time to "escape the hurly-burly of everyday life." I took the time to determine where the squadron needed to go and developed and implemented a plan to get it there.