An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

New inspection process focuses on mission, people

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeanette Voigt
  • 375th Operations Group commander
The Air Mobility Command Inspector General team came to the wing for a mid-point visit, and this made me think about the last time I prepared for an IG inspection.

The Operations Group started the preparations six months prior to their arrival, with specific focus areas and milestones leading up to the arrival of the team. One week was devoted to updating every appointment letter. Another week focused on standardizing the appearance of continuity books, to include a uniform size and color as well as an "official" cover template. We even spent several weeks determining the proper content and layout for unit bulletin boards.

Looking back at those preparations, I'm surprised by two things. First, there was almost no focus on mission accomplishment; it was all about appearance and looking good for the inspectors. Second, nobody thought our preparations were strange or a waste of time. It was just the accepted practice when you have an inspection.

So now we welcomed another IG team and what did we do to prepare for their arrival this time? Nothing. That's right. We didn't have a single meeting to discuss standardized briefs, prepare glitzy welcome binders or argue over bulletin board format. We simply went about our normal business.

What changed this time around? Well, the entire inspection system. It's designed to allow the wing to focus on the things important to the mission and the people accomplishing it.

First, the new inspection system grades wings based on what the Air Force expects commanders to do.

AFI 1-2, "Commander's Responsibilities," covers four areas: executing the mission, leading people, managing resources, and improving the unit. Those four responsibilities are also the major graded areas under the inspection system. It makes perfect sense that a unit be graded on the things it's responsible for. Looking at the focus of my previous inspection prep, very little of what we did fell into any of those responsibilities. In fact, many of the activities we did went counter to them. The new inspection system isn't focused on looking good. It cares about the important things: how well the unit is accomplishing the mission and taking care of the people, structures and resources that make the mission happen.

Second, the new inspection system doesn't demand perfection, but it does require honesty. The cardinal sin of the new inspection program is unidentified non-compliance. Air Force leadership understands that we simply don't have the manning and resources to comply with every single requirement. But they do expect commanders to know their units, know where they are not in compliance, and determine what, if anything, to do about it.

The foundation of this honesty starts with unit self-assessment representatives and program managers. They know their programs better than anyone and are in the best position to identify strengths as well as areas of non-compliance to their commanders. It's hard to break years of conditioning, but it's important to remember the target is not necessarily 100 percent raw compliance. The new idea is to identify 100 percent of our non-compliance areas so we can really know what needs fixing.

Finally, the core of the new inspection system is based on trust. Few people like working for someone who doesn't trust them to do their job. Well, the Air Force is saying it trusts commanders to know their units, prioritize their needs and ask for help when they can't do it themselves. In turn, commanders have to trust their members will let them know when there is a problem. If you are wondering what the boss wants to hear when completing your self-assessment "communicators," the answer is ... the truth.

It is that ground truth that allows commanders to realistically evaluate their areas of non-compliance and prioritize those they will address, what requires help from higher levels, and where they are willing to accept the risk associated with non-compliance.
Bottom line, the new inspection system is completely different than what we've been used to. It focuses on the important activities to accomplish the mission and manage the people and resources that make it happen. It acknowledges the limited time, manning and resources we all face. It trusts all levels to make honest assessments and use limited resources in the most effective manner. The success of this new system starts with you, and we won't even require you to rebuild your bulletin board first.