A Dynamic Tradition
(March 16, 2010)
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (3/12/2010 - AFNS) -- Our Air
Force has many traditions. Some we inherited from other
services; others are more recent and will take time to fully
develop. Traditions are positive things, deeply rooted in
our heritage and pride. Traditions are things we don't
easily give up.
One of our traditions, however, isn't often recognized as
"positive" and doesn't get the applause it deserves. That
tradition is one of our strongest and most resilient. You
see, our Air Force is dynamic - always adapting to meet new
missions and to counter new threats. With our world and its
realities continually evolving around us, living in a
culture of change is inevitable. This creates a level of
uncertainty, and people generally don't like uncertainty.
Such change, however, is vitally important and allows us to
maintain our efficiency, effectiveness and relevance.
So then, what is the best way for a leader to guide people
through change? There are certainly many methods to do so
and each one depends on the type of change expected. In all
cases, however, the principles that underlie the preparation
for change are the same. Preparation builds confidence,
helps a leader's organization be less fearful of approaching
uncertainty, and ensures the organization is much more
effective once change arrives.
This is where education and training come into play. We
educate in order to prepare for uncertainty. Education helps
us understand why the change is necessary. It also helps us
objectively assess the environment and rationale
necessitating the change. With objectivity, we can
unemotionally assess the benefits and drawbacks of the
different potential courses of action.
Education is a never-ending self-improvement process. The
different levels are predicated to occur at specific spots
in our careers -- opening doors and creating opportunities.
Because the Air Force lines up education programs with
future levels of responsibility, it can be difficult to
adequately catch up on education. Never pass up the
opportunity to further your education.
While education helps us prepare for uncertainty, training
programs are designed to prepare for certainty. After all,
it's those things that we expect that fill our syllabi and
lesson books. We train for them over and over until
recognizing and reacting to them is second nature. This is
one reason why we use checklists so much in the Air Force.
They help lead us accurately through challenging times.
Through experience, our collective list of "certainty"
grows. It shapes the evolution of our training programs. You
see, when we react to a challenge, we create a certain
result. Positive results reinforce the action - and make us
more confident. Although the positive result "trains" us to
use the same response next time, it typically doesn't teach
us to handle anything but the exact same challenge. When we
make mistakes or experience negative results, we truly have
an opportunity to learn. Even though it may not be as much
fun to investigate our failures, we are more apt to
critically assess the challenge and develop other, more
successful potential courses of action.
This is why our integrated safety programs, after action
teams and lessons learned archives are so valuable. They are
an effort to take advantage of the experiences and mistakes
of others to avoid having to relearn the same lessons over
and over again. In essence, such programs help each of us
prepare for future uncertainty and help bridge our learning
programs from the training arena into our education
As a leader, you must ensure your people have the education
necessary to prepare for uncertainty and the training to
guide them through certainty. As an individual, you must
aggressively pursue these opportunities to further develop
yourself as well. Such preparation will instill the
confidence necessary to embrace change.
Implementing new ideas in your organization can be
challenging. It takes careful thought, skilled execution and
the full support of your team. It can also take time. It is
always important to be evolutionary with change and not
revolutionary. That way, your changes will have a much
better chance to succeed over time.
Sometimes it is hard to take pride in a culture of
continuous change. But within uncertainty is opportunity and
opportunity helps fuel growth. Today, we must all adapt to
change much more rapidly than ever before. It is one of our
oldest and most important traditions ... and one that I hope
will never change.
USAF Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz
Commander, Air Education and Training Command
Air Force News Service
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