Surgeon General's Office Applies Business Transformation to In-Processing
Oct 12, 2007
BY Franz Holzer
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 12, 2007) -- The speed-up started out with the idea it took too long to get new staffers ready for their work in the Army Office of the Surgeon General. "We thought the points of contact our new people needed to see, during in-processing, were not available like they should have been," Lt. Col. Rick Dickinson admitted. Dickinson is the OTSG's project officer assigned, by the office's Human Resources director, to find a way to get in-processing to take less time. He talked about his project at the AUSA Contemporary Military Forum panel presentation on Army success in Business Transformation. There, he candidly shared with the audience some discoveries from his examination of in-processing. A few came as a bit of a surprise. "No," the project officer reflected. "It wasn't a lack of availability." After looking more closely at the processes for in-processing, Lt. Col. Dickinson found "there was this whole complex thing we didn't know about, like director-level decisions and (other requirements) outside OTSG we couldn't control." For more than two years, the Army has been looking at itself from within, knowing it has to make itself operate better. With that goal in mind, it has tried to apply good business practices, wherever most practical, and to benefit from that application. Army Medicine and the Office of the Surgeon General, like their counterparts outside the Army, have had a lot of attention, lately. More and more people have noticed some of what they do can be done better. The Army Medical Action Plan, or AMAP, is Army Medicine's focus on what can be done better. But the plan has so many different elements, a simple glance at it doesn't always tell you how to connect all the dots. Complexities can conjure confusion so somebody has to make it all make sense. In his project, Lt. Col. Dickinson tried to make sense of what he saw in OTSG's in-processing. "By gosh, this person's gotta come see me," Dickinson paraphrased in his presentation about some of the kinds of arguments he heard during his study. "Well, no, they don't," he shrugged, supported by chuckles from the audience. One of AMAP's project officers responsible for finding efficient ways to get medical facilities up to standard is Maj. Ricky Smith. He can tell you why a building doesn't meet standards and doesn't hesitate to tell you some things just get in the way. This is not about red tape, necessarily. Maj. Smith argues: "some people don't know all the steps to take. It's not that they don't care." Lt. Col. Dickinson agrees with that assessment: "when we actually walked through all the steps needed for in-processing," he said, "some of what we saw was just beyond the scope of the project." Where it was within the project's scope, to find a way to in-process more quickly, that's what they did. "We had a short time during which to get results," he commented from the lectern, "and we got better results than we expected." In-processing to OTSG now takes a little more than a work-week, meaning newcomers get to work in about a third of the time it took their predecessors. Two of the lessons for AMAP are: there are ways to get some requirements met more quickly, and there are ways to borrow from other people's lessons. Now that AMAP has helped to bring in more people to staff recently organized Warrior Transition Units, OTSG's experience can mean faster care for Warriors in Transition. "What will best heal the soldier is what we will do," stressed Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker, the Army's so-called "Bureaucracy Buster" and head of the AMAP. "I've got the right people with the right ideas making that happen every day."
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