Wrapping it up: Innovation and Focus

Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing commander

Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- With the new year upon us and fresh resolutions among us, our fourth and fifth themes are particularly relevant. As you remember, we previously discussed the first three of our five themes: Mission, Standards and Partnerships. These three themes inform the current situation. Our last two themes, Innovation and Focus, answer the question, "What's next?"

So why do we innovate? That's easy: for the better. But translating this answer into action is more difficult. I worry that AFSO 21 will go the way of "Quality" as we misinterpret our Air Force's ongoing need for improvement. AFSO 21 has tremendous potential. I encourage everyone to look at it as effective thought and analytical processes, and not be distracted with managing metrics and the details of AFSO's machinery. This is not to say that the metrics and the AFSO 21 infrastructures don't matter, but they cannot be ends in themselves.

Innovation requires answers to three questions:

1. What (or why) are we improving?

2. Is the proposed improvement possible?

3. Is the end result worthy of the extra effort it will take to make this improvement?

These questions help clarify the improvement mindset, but they are also fraught with danger. They can be rhetorically used by skeptics to derail creative teambuilding, attempts to raise standards and ultimately our mission ... or in other words, our first three themes. Innovation will involve certain levels of organizational risk. Risk is ok ... as are mistakes ... so long as laws weren't broken and our core values as a service and a community remain intact.

Focusing on what matters, namely our mission and fellow Airmen, helps us accentuate AFSO 21's opportunities and avoid potential distracters. How this links to the innovation theme is discussed above, but I also encourage everyone to get beyond the frustrations of the day-to-day details and look at the big picture. This is evident in the expeditionary environment where daily rules are starker, but it does apply to our time in garrison. In short, before you fight a detailed rule or standard, realize that we are Airmen in the service of our country and part of something much more than ourselves. Recalling our previous discussion about "partners ... not communists," about "standards that are unapologetically high," and knowing that "mission is theme number one," I find it's often better to comply versus being a rebel.

Mission, standards, partnerships, innovation and focus, these are five themes that have served me well over the entirety of my career. They will serve you well too. I couldn't be more proud to be part of Team Little Rock and to lead the 314th Airlift Wing. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these in detail over the previous months.