WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
"Accelerate change or lose."
Gen Charles “CQ” Brown, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, could not have put it more succinctly. If we don’t evolve fast enough, we won’t be able to keep up with our near-peer adversaries. And then we will, eventually, lose.
While every Airman in the 442d Fighter Wing – whether active-duty, reservist, or civilian – is a potential instigator of change, it’s the entire job of Shallyn Troutman, the wing’s process manager, to lead the charge. Her mission is to provide continuous process improvement and innovation, and lessons-learned capabilities.
The two key words there are “improvement” and “innovation.” Process improvement involves streamlining processes – cutting out wasted steps to save time and taxpayer money. Change for the sake of change does very little for the wing. In order to keep up with our adversaries, we must constantly strive to be better today than we were yesterday.
Having recognized this some years ago, Air Force Reserve Command created the wing process manager’s position to build a force of dedicated process-improvement advocates to help guide our wings into the future.
Since that time, the wing has gone through four process managers. Interestingly enough, meaningful change first requires stability – at least in the position of the person spearheading it.
“Innovation doesn’t come easy,” Troutman said. “Especially in a military organization where you’re built on a top-down leadership style.”
To facilitate innovation, Troutman wants to tap into the skills of the wing’s traditional reservists, who may do something completely different during the month than they do on drill weekends.
“I’m very excited to be in this position,” she said, “because I’m a firm believer in empowering the people.” She believes that the way to create a great team is by investing in people at the lowest level and building from the ground up.
As the former 442d Maintenance Squadron commander, Troutman feels she is in a good position to understand the needs of commanders throughout the wing so her efforts will be more likely to help, rather than hinder, the units.
Because of the high turnover in the office, though, the continuous process improvement program has suffered some difficulties.
“The CPI culture change revolves around building your base of educated CPI practitioners,” Troutman said. “And also having the [process manager] position be the Black Belt mentor within the organization.” Every process manager who’s been in the seat up to now has been working toward their Black Belt.
Six Sigma is a set of tools to help organizations improve processes that was created at the Motorola Corporation in 1986. AFI 38-401, Continuous Process Improvement (CPI), sets a goal of five percent of a wing’s members to be trained to the level of Green Belt, and one percent to have a Black Belt certification.
The current group of 28 Green-Belt-academics trained members meets that goal for the 442 FW’s full-time force, but Troutman would like to challenge the wing to include civilian Airmen in that goal, which would require another 39 Green Belts to make it to five percent.
“I view this year as a building year,” Troutman said, “I’m using Microsoft Teams to help practitioners communicate within the wing – and the Air Force has contracted Opus Works to start teaching people about CPI.” She also hopes to provide problem-solving training to help members start to think about how to improve processes.
If a member already has an idea for improvement, they can submit it in a few ways. The preferred method is to swing by her office in building 48, room 208. Second, they can use the Idea Submission form (hyperlink will only work on the Air Force network) on the wing’s SharePoint site. They can email Troutman at email@example.com. And finally, they can submit it through their chain of command. This method ensures that, if there’s already a fix in the works for that issue that the member isn’t aware of, senior leadership will be able to avoid any duplication of effort.
Additionally, members interested in becoming Green Belt certified can take the self-paced course (which costs $2,000 on the civilian side) for free, and can be on points-no-pay orders while they do so. Instructions for how to sign up are on the CPI Microsoft Team. Email Troutman to be made a member.
Once someone is Green-Belt-academics trained, the next goal is to get them certified. In order to do that, they have to observe a CPI event, co-host an event, and then facilitate an event. After they facilitate, they have to monitor the process and track metrics for three to six months to see whether the process has actually improved. Once the data is collected, the certification can be completed.
Despite having 28 academics-trained members, the 442 FW currently has no certified Green Belts, and one certified Black Belt – out of a goal of four – who is a traditional reservist. Troutman aims to change that.
“I’m hoping everybody can be as passionate about process improvement as I am,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun when you see something that’s being done in a very primitive method and you actually get to witness it functioning better and saving everybody a lot of time.”
Troutman is also in the process of setting up a CPI SharePoint site as part of the wing’s site. It’s currently under construction, but she plans to have it fully-operational by June. It can be found here: https://afrc.eim.us.af.mil/sites/442FW/442fws/CPI/SitePages/Home.aspx
Creating a culture of change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes continuous work from people like Troutman to make it happen, and to make it happen fast enough to keep ahead of our adversaries. But when Gen. Brown says to accelerate change or lose, as far as the 442 FW is concerned, Shallyn Troutman is the gas pedal.