I’’ve seen it over and over again. An airman makes a mistake and then the reprimands begin, “He should know better,” says one sergeant. “Put a letter of counseling in his file,” says another sergeant. “Let’s not recommend him for promotion,” says even another sergeant, etc., etc. To me, these are all examples of when root cause analysis should be done.

It seems as process improvement professionals, it is easy to get hyperfocused on processes, but in reality, I believe people should be our main focus. If an airman makes a mistake, whose fault is it really? What is the root cause of the airman’s mistake? Can we do a five why analysis and determine the root cause? A fishbone diagram perhaps? Perhaps the root cause is a lack of good leadership from their initial onboarding. We often say and hear that our people are our greatest assets. If that is true, and I believe it is, then they should have an entire team of professionals ensuring their individual success. Not unlike an F-15 fighter crew. I can assure you, if something goes wrong with an airplane, the crew works diligently to attack the problem, and get it back ready for flight as soon as possible…they don’t blame the plane! Same should be true for our young Airmen.

When something goes wrong, supervisors need to ensure they are doing everything possible to help them be successful. Never start off blaming the airman. For example, it should never take two to three months for a new airman to show up on my pay roster after being reassigned from student flight. I should never have an airman come to me and tell me he has not been paid for the last three drills. I should never have an airman tell me that his hotel reservation did not get reserved properly, therefore he has to pay the full rate himself. I think you get the idea. If these recurring issues were happening to our birds, we would have serious issues. Fortunately, we treat our planes with high regard, as they are one of our greatest assets; second only to our Airmen!

The moral to the story is simple. If we treat our Airmen like our greatest asset, even better than we treat our planes, then we are assured we will maintain air superiority…have you made developing Airmen your number one mission?

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