Would you rather work harder or work smarter?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Stacey Kidd
  • 8th Fighter Wing Air Force Smart Operations 21 director
In the words of a well-known song,

"You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser

"You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger ...

"Time asks no questions it goes on without you, leaving you behind if you can't stand the pace ..."

Today's Air Force is expected to do as much or more than it always has, but with much lower manning. Two or three people routinely do work now that used to be done by more people.

There are two ways to deal with a situation like this - work harder, or work smarter.

Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO 21, provides the modern Air Force with ways to work smarter. A couple popular misconceptions of AFSO are that it finds ways to do the work with fewer people, causing shops to lose manning, or that it makes people work harder and faster to get the job done. Neither of these is how AFSO is intended to be used. AFSO's purpose is to look for waste in the current process and remove it so the job is completed more quickly, efficiently and accurately, saving time, manpower and money. As a result, the required amount of work can be done more easily with the current manning.

What do I mean by removing waste from a process? AFSO looks for eight main categories of waste. The three most common ones are defects -- when something is done incorrectly; waiting -- idle time when work is not progressing; and transportation or motion -- excess movement of materials or people back and forth to accomplish a process. All of these things contribute to longer work days and lower output.

Think about all the time you spend waiting for something to happen so you can go on with your job, or how many miles you walk each day while completing your work. The AFSO approach is to look at a current process, ask why it is done this way, and determine if there an easier way to do it. Can the way something is done be changed or the shop layout reorganized? Little is gained by telling personnel to work faster, but give them an environment in which they can work more efficiently, and the work output will increase as a result.

AFSO can also be used to look at a problem, such as not meeting required rates. In this case, AFSO tools are used to determine the root cause of the problem, develop countermeasures, then confirm and standardize the results so they are sustained for future classes.

The 8th Fighter Wing leadership has been instrumental in supporting AFSO initiatives at Kunsan AB. In August 2010, the leadership created a strategic alignment and deployment plan and listed 10 objectives to improve at Kunsan, ranging from in-processing, to aircraft generation to professional training. The SA&D can be seen on the AFSO intranet page and on the Kunsan webpage. From the SA&D, 18 projects were initiated to carry out the objectives. The projects are overseen by the AFSO office, but run by volunteer team leaders who want to leave Kunsan better than they found it. My thanks go out to each of these leaders and their team members, as well as to all the base agencies that have provided data in support of AFSO projects. Once these projects are completed, more will be started, in a continuous improvement of Kunsan AB.

If you have an idea of how a process at Kunsan can be done smarter, your AFSO office is just a phone call away. If you are interested in participating in an improvement project, volunteer opportunities are available. If you are looking for more in-depth knowledge of problem-solving tools, courses are offered at Kunsan and provide comprehensive knowledge of how to apply AFSO techniques in the work place. Upcoming classes are posted on the AFSO 21 intranet, or you can contact the AFSO office at 782-2131. Feel free to call and join a notification list for upcoming courses.

Bottom line, we all have to get our work done. We could continue to do our work as it has been done, putting in longer hours to make up for our lower manning, or we can step back, take a look at the process and ask, "Is there an easier way to do this?"

Why work harder when we can work smarter?