Compliance, innovation, documentation – we must do it all

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ray Cirasa
  • 71st Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
One of the unique characteristics of military life is that so many of the rules are provided for us. The big picture is laid out in our core values and we get specifics from Air Force Instructions, major command guidance and local policy.

We've got standards addressing our conduct on the job and off. As a commander, that makes the job easier than if we had to reinvent the wheel after every change of command.

I like to keep things simple, so I'm not selective about which standards are important. I take them all seriously and members of my squadron have learned not to be offended when I ask them to show me the reference. I find this habit helps everyone learn. I also find that I can go to meetings and better articulate our positions when I'm 100 percent certain of an instruction instead of just being pretty sure.

To make sure we stay in compliance, our Wing conducts a vigorous, well-documented self-inspection program and our major command visits now and then to inspect. We are under 10 months to the next Unit Compliance Inspection.

The Air Force has weighed in on much of what we do. It's our job to know the rules and follow them. At the same time, we also have to realize that what worked yesterday won't always be the best course of action for tomorrow.

We're all well aware that across the Air Force we operate in a resource constrained environment. Manpower and money are limited, and they've been stretched thin. Vance is a perfect example with our small unit dynamics and multiple one-deep positions.

In order to accomplish all of our competing priorities, we're constantly challenged to lean our processes, to make better use of technology and to work smarter. If it doesn't contribute to the mission or help our people, and isn't required by law, we question why we're doing it.

By necessity, we've become very good at eliminating wasted effort so we can concentrate on work that will give us the most bang for the buck.

As an institution, we've acknowledged that the best ideas usually don't come from the top of the chain. We make the best progress when every member of the unit feels he or she can identify areas for improvement and that the chain will listen and help implement smart solutions. That's why we empower and encourage our Airmen to take charge in their areas of responsibility and look for better mousetraps.

Compliance and innovation -- sometimes these two goals seem contradictory and can leave an Airman wondering which is more important. The answer is that we need to achieve both by properly documenting our improvements. This often means a request for waiver or permission to deviate from existing instructions.

Sometimes when a local solution can bear efficiencies at other bases or major commands, we may seek to change existing technical orders or instructions. In other cases, it may mean elevating an issue to the proper level of responsibility for a commander to document a carefully considered decision to operate outside standard procedures due to limiting factors or unique local conditions.

Proper documentation takes time, but it's how we maintain compliance while charging smartly into the future.

We can, and must, do it all. Compliance always, innovation when possible and documentation to bridge the gaps.