Road trip to compliance leaves room for improvement

  • Published
  • By retired Maj. Bryon Turner
  • Formerly of the 103rd Airlift Wing's Inspector General's Office
Members of the 103rd Airlift Wing's Inspector General office and Airmen from the Wing Inspection Team work hard to identify areas that need improvement within the wing without bias or any agenda other than striving to make the unit the best it can be.
     "Perfection is an unreachable destination," said Lt. Col. James Guerrera, 103rd Airlift Wing's Inspector General.  "Continuous improvement is the direction all of our efforts should be headed; we won't get to perfection, but we must strive toward that destination."
     The journey to achieving a base-wide sense of transparency and continuous improvement is not an easy road to travel--it requires a major cultural shift at all levels of the organization.  The wing has done most of the heavy lifting in realizing that shift, as is evident from our Unit Effectiveness Inspection results, but there's still more work to be done and the road is long. 
     On the path to continuous improvement all of us are flawed, including the IG.  So, notions of having a group of imperfect people evaluate and critique you and your work can cause egos to bruise; after all, nobody likes a back seat driver.  With all of the passion we all put into our work, reactions can be emotional and defensive.  But, in some cases, those reactions may have valid concerns at their root.
     Although the IG is tasked with detecting non-compliance and opportunities to improve, they are not experts in everything nor are they perfect by any means.  Subject matter experts and experienced Airmen from across the wing are there to supplement the IG's knowledge base and capabilities in the form of the Wing Inspection Team.  But even with this considerable cadre of cross-functional pros, errors can still be made. 
     Up until recently, perceived errors and concerns of those evaluated were addressed informally through one-on-one interactions, group discussions and emails outside of the chain of command.  This was done in the interest of transparency and cooperation along the path to compliance.      
     In the interest of improving the unit, the rebuttal process was analyzed and determined to be the root cause of considerable delays in report publishing and the development of corrective action plans to address mission-related concerns and deficiencies.  After much discussion, a new method of communicating concerns and rebuttals was developed through a collaborative effort between the IG office and the 103rd Airlift Wing's vice commander, Col. Roy Walton.
     Rebuttals can be sent through the chain-of-command, with Col. Walton's office as the final destination pending continuous up-channeling through the squadron and group-level commanders.  Consider Col. Walton to be the traffic cop on the highway to compliance.  From there, a discussion with the IG will take place, and deficiencies will be validated if required.
     Once the draft report is sent to wing leadership, rebuttals must be sent up the chain within seven business days, unless otherwise indicated.  It's important to communicate your concerns through your leadership as early as possible as most reports should be published within 30 days.  Reports with significant deficiencies must be published within five business days and those with critical deficiencies must be published within three business days; so timelines for related rebuttals will be shorter.
     "Sometimes those evaluated, as well as those conducting the evaluations, are just too close to the subject matter to see the forest through the trees," said Col. Walton.  "We all want the same thing; we all want to make this the best unit we can, but sometimes an objective third party is needed to help us see things more clearly."
     When a consensus on reconciling deficiencies and rebuttals cannot be achieved locally, the IG will reach out to external units, WIT members, CCs, SMEs, FAMs, IGs and JFHQs to provide independent evaluations to break any logjams in the local rebuttal process.  To keep the road trip metaphor going, the IG will pull over and ask for directions.
     Once a determination is made and the report is published, the status of the deficiency will stand.  Any further discussion can be accomplished through IGEMS to document the corrective action plan at the lowest level.  Once a CAP is approved and the deficiency in question is closed out, another milestone along the path to improvement will have been reached, but the journey to that highly-effective destination is long.  We can all get there faster if we stay on course, minimize the stops along the way and keep this convoy rolling in the same direction.