How will you establish a culture of compliance?
By Col. Kyle Robinson, 366th Operations Group commander
/ Published March 02, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
As you all know, the base just completed the Air Combat Command Unit Compliance Inspection. All of the hard work and dedication by the Gunfighters paid off and the wing did a phenomenal job. As 366th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Ron Buckley mentioned in his commentary, we "knocked it out of the park." While there was a collective sigh of relief after the inspection was complete, our work is not yet finished. Please bear with me as I discuss the way I view the UCI and what we should be doing in the upcoming months.
In the months leading up to the UCI, Colonel Buckley mentioned the Gunfighters should have a "Culture of Compliance." How many of you pondered what this meant? The compliance part is easy to understand -- we all have governing Air Force and Department of Defense Instructions, and Occupational Health and Safety Administration rules and guidelines we must follow. The purpose of the UCI is to make sure we are doing our work in accordance with these directives -- in other words, that we are "compliant." The word "culture" merits more discussion.
For those of you who have been to some form of professional military education, you might have discussed culture. In my experience, culture is one of the most important things a commander should understand. It's also one of the most difficult things for a commander to change. Why is that? Shared beliefs and values form one aspect of culture. Common practices and behaviors are another aspect of culture.
While being able to recite the core values or not violate the rules of the bar at the club is interesting, in my mind, the more important aspect is how these beliefs, values and practices are put into action. These norms might be written down, but how workers view them and act upon them usually isn't, and this is where the rubber meets the road. These unwritten rules separate high performing organizations from organizations that simply get by, and since these rules can't be written down nor given as orders, they are difficult to see or change.
Now that we have the basics of culture down, let's examine how this applies to the UCI and the next few months. I know all of you would like to have all of your programs in tip-top shape, with continuity books ready to go. Some of you may have started your UCI preparation from this baseline. The UCI, being an open-book examination, is one of the easiest inspections when your shop is in order. In my mind, in the next few months we should strive to remain compliant all the time with the required documentation to prove it.
We must work to institutionalize the processes and programs we set up for the UCI, and more importantly, make them easy to maintain. Institutionalizing these processes and using them in our day-to-day work is another way of saying, "Changing our practices and behaviors," or in other words, changing our culture. The maintenance of our world-class processes and programs involves keeping everything up-to-date with changes in equipment and policy, and performing periodic self inspections. Maintenance of a sound process is easy and shouldn't take a lot of time or require "feats of strength" to keep it going. If a process is difficult to execute or time consuming, then the process should be reexamined, perhaps as an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century study. If we periodically oil our machine, it will take a lot less effort to keep it finely tuned. If we blow off routine maintenance for four years, expect to have difficulties getting it back into compliance.
If we truly make compliance our culture, we will be ready for the next UCI. More importantly, we will be doing things "by the book," even when an evaluator isn't looking. Ultimately, this is what we should strive for: riding hard and shooting straight at all times. We are Gunfighters, after all, and that's the way we roll. I plan on performing periodic inspections in the 366th Operations Group to keep us fully compliant, and working on changing our culture so that our folks remain compliant without needing to be asked to do so. How will you establish a culture of compliance for yourself and your work area?