Change Management

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James D. Ulrich
  • 21st Medical Support Squadron

As you follow the news coming out of Washington, D.C, you have likely observed that there are a great number of changes coming to the Air Force and the Department of Defense as a whole.  While we are seeing significant shifts in policy directives and how we do business, this level of change seems to be more significant than in recent memory. Every day seems to bring about the possibility of a new way to do business or even the possibility of new missions. Closer to home, we see proposals that could shift the role of Air Force Space Command and how we execute our overall national defense strategy. The key theme across all of these elements is that change is inevitable and usually beyond our ability to control.

What is within our control is how we respond to change and the efforts we can make to shape it appropriately. Change management is not a skillset that is commonly discussed, but it is a critical trait that leaders at all levels of the Air Force can develop. It requires thorough analysis to see how the change will impact your unit as well as how your unit fits into the overall mission. It demands a genuine connection with Airmen to understand how the change may impact them. Please note this is capital-A Airmen, as major events will affect all categories in different ways. Finally, strong change managers communicate well to remove as much uncertainty and confusion as possible. 

We often hear the phrase, “flexibility is the key to airpower,” tossed around casually, but there is a great deal of truth in it. Leaders who have the ability to adjust on the fly are the most effective when faced with challenging times. These leaders invest the time to learn as much as possible about the situation to make informed decisions. They analyze the possible courses of actions and potential results. Most importantly, they remain calm and flexible to ensure that whatever changes may come, they are prepared to guide the team to complete the mission.

As we move into the early parts of 2019, we should anticipate that this year will drive significant changes in our mission and possibly some uncertainty in what is to come. It is natural for us to experience discomfort in the face of this uncertainty, yet this new year also presents a clean slate and untapped potential. We are serving our nation in an exciting time and the decisions we make now will influence how the Air Force evolves for generations to come. Instead of dreading possible changes, look to these times as an opportunity to shape the future and identify ways to do things better. Recognize that you are a key part of what the future can be. Stay positive, invest your time in learning, and don’t be afraid to face the change!