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Fostering a culture of compliance

Posted 1/26/2011   Updated 1/26/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Michael Hornitschek
375th Air Mobility Wing Commander

1/26/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- What are the guiding principles that steer us to safely execute our mission? How are these fundamentals applied? How do we know we have succeeded in fostering a culture of compliance?

These are just a few of the questions that commanders are addressing throughout 18th Air Force at the request of Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, 18th AF commander. As the 375th AMW commander, I recently sat down with some of our wing leadership to discuss these questions and start a conversation about evaluating our own "report card" in these areas.

We all are responsible for multimillion dollar assets, from aircraft to buildings, from vehicles to computer systems, and even more importantly--and immeasurable in worth--our human resources. How do we keep up with daily stresses and requirements to perform our missions in a predictably safe and reliable manner? How do we ensure our consistency in meeting the regulatory requirements for mission execution?

Of course, we have guidelines--printed in black and white--that specifically state the rules, regulations and boundaries for what we can legally and safely do. Becoming proficient in our own areas of expertise requires top notch training and mentoring, and enforcement of standards. We can all agree, I am sure, that being aware of overarching doctrines and strategies also influence the way we perform our missions.

Those are some of the foundational aspects and very tangible portions of our jobs. What's not so tangible are the ways in which we ensure an attitude of compliance, or rather a willingness to comply--that's what we're working to identify to help us ensure we foster a culture of compliance in today's Air Force.

We are duty bound to maintain razor sharp skills as we fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace! It matters how we get to mission execution and it matters how we execute the mission. Mishaps and accidents occur because people may get too comfortable, careless or lax in the enforcement of standards. Maybe the mission has become so routine that they shave off some of those precautionary steps meant to identify or mitigate trouble spots.

As commanders and supervisors we have tools to help us enforce those standards that include good rewards and negative consequences. We must maintain vigilance in setting and enforcing these standards. Conduct self-inspections to determine if your processes align with expected guidance. Demonstrate the use and value of Risk Management principles in each daily routine. Hold AFSO21 activities to identify barriers, areas of waste and to hone solid processes. We need to do all we can to not only set the example, but exceed expectations for ourselves and for those we lead.

We have superior NCOs who are key to enforcing standards and ensuring the tasks are completed with precision each and every day. These frontline supervisors perform little miracles every day with their amazing talent and creative thinking! We lean on them to help instill, support and lead the way with their positive, can-do attitudes.

In addition, every person from the youngest Airman to the most senior leader has a role in contributing to this culture of compliance. We need to know our people, understand the mission and the full range of requirements and governing regulations. We are unique in that we are responsible for our nation's defense and we must encourage and instill the core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do.

If we abide by these core values, a culture of compliance will naturally follow. Our Integrity will make it impossible for us to cut corners and do less than our best work. Service Before Self will ensure that we do the right things for the right reasons. We will put the requirements of compliance--those regulations that we must adhere to that govern both the mission and behaviors--above our own personal feelings of perhaps being tired, or not paying attention, or getting away with it "just this once." Living a life of Excellence in All We Do will ensure we come to work each day armed with the thought of leaving our areas and people better than when we found it.

Our Air Force is relying on us to execute the mission and safeguard the nation's resources. I challenge each of us to look around and evaluate what we are doing personally to foster a culture of compliance or identify course corrections for improvement. Focusing on self inspections is just one measurement of compliance. I want us to focus on the other aspects as well. Together we'll ensure Scott AFB continues to have a reputation for compliance and Excellence in All We Do!

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