Lorenz on Leadership - Develop Your Vision

  • Published
  • By Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz
  • Commander, Air Education and Training Command
Imagine, if you will, an adaptive training environment that sits inside a bare room. This environment can be manipulated to simulate any task - from simple to complex. With the flick of a switch or push of a button, the bare room transforms into a living, breathing, interactive experience. Sounds and smells abound, people appear and interact, and objects can be held and manipulated. Once the training is complete, the same switch or button disengages the system, making the entire simulation disappear, leaving the original stark, bare room.

In the "Star Trek" series, such an innovation was part of their daily routine. The "holodeck" permitted personnel aboard the Starship Enterprise to experience an interactive learning simulation. Imagine how such an innovation could help members of our Air Force. Not only would it save space, but it would also help manage risk, reduce training costs and permit personalized learning programs built specifically for the individual. The holodeck would revolutionize all aspects of how we operate in the Air Force.

The holodeck is my vision of the perfect training and education aide. In fact, I wish every installation had hundreds of these interactive rooms throughout the base. The possibilities are endless. Sadly, I must temper my vision with reality and the realm of the possible. Although my vision may not be feasible today, it doesn't mean that I should give up. Our job is to make dreams come true each and every day. I know you all have similar dreams, visions that could benefit our Airmen both today and tomorrow. Such visions must be pursued - you should never, ever, ever give up.

In order to realize a vision, several things need to happen. First, you must align the vision with one of our core service functions. The closer to the core, the easier it will be to gain support and, eventually, resourcing. Next, take the vision and develop a strategy. Depending on your vision, the strategy may involve acquisition, implementation, execution, modification or one of many other aspects. Let your strategy start at the 40 percent solution and then let it evolve to 80 percent and eventually to 98 percent. Realize that the process is continual - you will never get to 100 percent.

With the strategy in place, you can start socializing the vision. Socialization will also help your vision progress and grow roots through increased organizational support and understanding. The support will help you champion the concept for resourcing. After all, your vision must have resourcing in order to come true. Those resources will go to winners, not to losers - invest the time and energy to be a winner.

In life, and especially in the Air Force, priorities and personnel are always changing. Over time, your vision will need to adapt to the realities of change. It will require even greater persistence and objectivity. Giving your vision roots and aligning it with core functions will create something that can be handed off and sustained through change. The best ideas, sustained by hard work, can be carried forward by any leader.

You may also find yourself joining an organization and accepting someone else's vision. In this situation, evaluate their vision against current realities and resourcing priorities. If they've done their homework, the project will be easy to move forward. If they haven't, assess the vision to determine if it should move ahead or if its time has passed.

Last month, while visiting Fort Dix, N.J., and the Air Force Expeditionary Center, I came as close as I've ever been to a functioning holodeck. I watched in awe as deploying Airmen entered a series of rooms at the Medical Training Simulation Center. They fought through heavy smoke to reach bloodied bodies that littered the floor. Sirens wailed and explosions shook the room, all interrupting their efforts to save the simulated wounded.

Once their training was complete, instructors activated a switch that disengaged the simulation. In this situation, the switch did not make the entire interactive experience disappear. Although the smoke cleared and sirens stopped wailing, the 'original stark, bare room' still held the medical training dummies. It was more than enough to get my heart racing.

My vision still needs some time to evolve and mature. This doesn't mean I'm going to give up - I simply need to work a little harder. Our Air Force needs you to champion your vision as well. Develop it along our service core functions and socialize it - let it grow roots and evolve. Don't let your vision disappear like the end of a holodeck simulation exercise. Do your homework and the resources will follow. After all, it is your initiatives that fuel the positive change that makes our Air Force the finest in the world.