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Chief’s Corner – week of Feb. 26

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Change is everywhere in the Air Force.  During the past year we have seen evidence of this in different areas.  Whether it is the new Enlisted Performance Report static closeout dates or the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment or something else--change is usually intended to make things better.  Like all transformation it can be met with either support or resistance.  Which do you choose?  Often, these changes are met with resistance because there is a natural fear of the unknown.  What will this do to my career, and how will it impact my life?
 
Change is never easy and since I first raised my hand a long time ago, I have seen significant changes in the Air Force.  Often resistance, although usually more work and trouble, is the path some choose to take.  We have all heard the individual who say, "That will never work" or "What a stupid idea..." 

The Air Force is not perfect, but I like to think our leadership makes every effort to critically think through second and third order effects. Unfortunately, not all change is necessarily effective or the best answer when we look back.  We are human, and humans make mistakes.  A couple examples jump into my mind when I think of unnecessary change.  The first was the bike test for fitness assessments in the mid-1990s.  In actuality the most fit individuals had the greatest difficulty passing due to target heart rate threshold not being met.  However, if you smoked cigarettes, you could pass, which defeats the purpose.  A second example was the Velcro black nametags on the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) - fortunately this one died a quick death.  Many of you are too young to remember either one of those initiatives.   I am not intending to compare bike tests and Velcro nametags to the challenges we face today, however in principle it is the same thing, we had confidence in our leaders that this was the correct route to take--so we moved out on it.

One more example of change is something I was directly a part of during my first assignment in the Air Force in 1994.  During my last year and half in the squadron, we made a major transition from Ground Systems Operators to Space Systems Operators - essentially a massive officer to enlisted transition that would save millions of dollars over the long-haul--and it has.  Unfortunately, not everyone was happy about this change.  Job security and future concerns, are examples of resistance I witnessed.  Everyone was given the opportunity to speak up--various concerns were voiced and addressed but throughout the course of this change, the ones who supported the change prevailed.  Those who said it couldn't be done were wrong.
 
How do you support change in your organization?  In your Air Force? Do you meet it head-on and push a positive mind-set?  Do you ask "how can I help?"  Or better yet say, "I intend to provide the expertise to make this transformation go faster or more efficient for my leadership."  Do you have positive input to the solution or the output of negative resistance? Are you one who grumbles and sees it as an opportunity to complain or makes jokes and undermines potential progress?  Supporting change with a positive attitude is crucial to helping achieve our Air Force mission.  In the end, a couple things are certain, change is here to stay and adaptability will always be required.  How we choose to react to change is up to us.  Looking back, we have all seen good transformation and not so good transformation in our Air Force, in the end we need to foster, grasp and support change.  If not, it may be best to get out of the way.
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