Focus on doing it right the first time

  • Published
  • By Col. Miguel Col√≥n
  • 821st Air Base Group commander
2013 is shaping up to be a very challenging year. By now everyone has heard about sequestration. Defined as a "mechanism or procedure" in U.S. law used to limit the size of the federal budget, sequestration was enacted by Congress and is expected to drive budget cuts across the government in order to meet requirements captured in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

One thing is certain: the recurring theme over the last few years supports the premise that money, manpower and time will continue to shrink in quantity. I think you would also agree that we have reached the point where doing more with less is no longer a sustainable approach. Our leadership, at all levels, understands this quandary and addresses this issue head-on, consistently making the tough decisions necessary to sustain the force, and limiting the impact to the mission. At the end of the day, resources are very limited but everyone can help ensure the mission is accomplished.

It is important that we all do our part supporting our decision-makers by focusing energies on commander-directed priorities and ensuring our every action counts. You may have heard carpenters say the phrase "measure twice, cut once," and that is exactly what we need to do. We must follow this simple approach that focuses on the protection of our limited resources and ensure the task is completed correctly without wasting time or resources. This is a philosophy which is more important now than ever.

Sometimes our mistakes are driven by a need to accomplish the task at hand too quickly. In some functional areas you'll hear supervisors remind their personnel with the words, "slow is smooth and smooth is fast." I think we can all agree that when people try to hurry, or act too quickly, they open the door for mistakes to occur and in some instances the task must be re-accomplished. In today's resource constrained environment we must take a brief moment to "measure twice, cut once" in order to ensure we understand the task, purpose and priority. Take a little extra time for a double check, focus and ensure that what you are doing is really what needs to be done.

Communication is a big enabler to this focused philosophy. As leaders, we must communicate, communicate and communicate. Our guidance to the force must be clear, and it requires active participation at all levels. Get out and about to see and listen to the concerns of Airmen and modify the plan as required based on our dynamic environment. I've always worked on the premise that people do the best they can at a task. If they sometimes come short, we must help them figure it out. This is where the power of mentoring comes into play. Pass on your experience to the team and explain what worked in the past and any lessons learned from previous mistakes. In short, take the time to explain, guide, encourage and inform the force. Similarly, subordinates must also keep each other and their superiors informed. This critical flow of information will increase understanding at all levels and enable the force to excel at their task.

The "do it right the first time" philosophy is consistent with our Air Force core values and highlights what it takes to effectively accomplish the mission and drive us to be the very best. We work alongside the best force I've seen in more than 20 years of service. Our team's desire to sustain excellence over the long term must be supported through guidance, encouragement and simply communicating with the force. Capitalize on this challenging time to develop our next generation of leaders. They will make a greater impact across the U.S. Air Force and will be ready to tackle the next true challenge: "do less with less."