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Thinking lean, a must for stronger, smaller Air Force

by 1st Lt. Rose Richeson
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/18/2007 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFPN) -- The U.S. Air Forces in Europe vice commander, Maj. Gen. Marc Rogers, spent time with senior leaders at Incirlik Air Base to discuss the importance of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO21.

General Rogers began with a big picture explanation of the Air Force's strong focus on the "lean process" -- the endless pursuit of identification and elimination of waste, adapting to change, and continuous process improvement.

"We need to transform our Air Force," he said. "Think about what our Air Force was in '47, '52, '69 and look at what we do today. We are the smallest we have been in history; but, we are the most powerful."

Leaders are being asked to alter the way they do business in order to keep up with the information age -- a huge driving factor behind this transformation. General Rogers concentrated his message on the leaders of the Incirlik community because they are charged with leading and sustaining the force.

"You (senior leaders) have got to have a strategy ... but at the same time, when changes happen you've got to be able to accommodate these changing things," he said.

The key behind leaning processes is to achieve a transformation outcome that will save cost, time and effort. An AFSO 21 outcome can stem from one of the following three approaches; taking current processes and changing them, combining current platforms and executing them in new ways with reengineered processes or using something completely different and out of the box by exploring new solutions.

General Rogers stressed that the focus of lean should be on enabling the Air Force's people, for they are the key component of all processes.

"At the tactical level you can pretty well do your jobs," he said. "The things that make it tougher for you to do your job is all the rest of the bureaucracy. We can really lean out this Air Force -- there is a lot of work to be done."

One of the hardest things this transformation will ask for is a culture change, the general said. Without training and the right tools, the unit's existing character and mentality will be too powerful to overcome.

"If you can create across your command, across your unit, a mindset of out-of-the-box lean thinking, you will automatically become more adaptable," General Rogers said.

"Lean is a great leadership development tool that should be used to mentor your people and develop them," the general said.

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