This is the second in a series of newsletter articles that…
- describes the approach for effective and affordable sustainment (from ICBMs)
- how ICBM sustainers fit that solution into one integrated sustainment management system
- what these solutions mean for all of us today as we struggle with the very same problems
The figure that goes with this article represents a management model for complex system sustainment. (In this reprint from the newsletter, I inserted the video instead of the image. The difference is the voiceover.)
In its barest bones, this management model observes the complete system to find emerging failure modes so that a prioritized list of risk mitigations can be sold to the USAF decision-makers that hold the purse-strings. As mentioned in the last article, readiness factors help with the observation and creation of sustainment risk statements.
The readiness factors that were important to the Strategic Air Command were availability, reliability, accuracy, hardness from attack, safety, and surety.
When USAF ICBM people discuss reliability and availability readiness factors versus the USAF aircraft folks some interesting differences appear. First of all, the expected reliability of a rocket buried in a remote location in a northern snowfield will necessarily need to be much higher than an aircraft that is easily accessible for maintenance. Similarly, ICBMs are immediately available (thus, the name, Minuteman), while aircraft may be given a period of time to generate a sortie. Many consider the safe and sure use of a nuclear weapon delivery system to be a part of availability since a system which is not safe or not secure would not be allowed to be available. Lack of hardness against attack would not support the deterrence mission since it would encourage a first strike. In keeping with national policy, the system needs to have a certain level of accuracy such that it can be targeted against specific military targets and not just large cities. Interestingly, it does not have a requirement to be any more accurate than that.
ICBM readiness factors have precise definitions. For instance, reliability applies after the launch command is issued. Hardness against radiation is different than similar requirements for recon satellites. These precise definitions turn out to be very useful when assessing risks. Your system should have precise definitions of your readiness factors too.
What I have observed in ICBMs also should happen in your team: There is a willingness of ICBM sustainers and sustainment managers to constantly revisit these precise definitions to make sure they are still supporting the needs of sustainment management. These kinds of deep-probing questions usually arise when debating a particular set of expected risks to the system. “Why is this a risk to availability? Are we sure this fits the definition? If not, does the definition need another look?” For example, if the crew cannot be certain of emergency air supplies, does this impact system availability? If not, is our definition at fault or our thinking? These exercises, occurring smack dab in the middle of monthly risk management meetings attending by dozens of sustainers help to reinforce the importance of the warfighter’s mission and help create a common language and way of approaching sustainment. It creates a culture of warfighter support.
With the few words we have left, let’s dive into a lexicon for sustainment. This lexicon is associated with the Complex System Sustainment Management Model mentioned above and available at charlesvono.com.
As mentioned before, the model is depicted in the graphic accompanying this article. To repeat, sustainers observe the well-defined system to help create a priority list of risks to be mitigated in time to avoid loss of mission capability.Sustainers support the warfighter’s mission (sustainer mission statements that say something like “Our mission is to sustain” are much less effective). However, every USAF weapon system is subject to non-warfighter requirements that can change during the sustainment phase, such as environmental directives. The key enablers to this approach are people, data bases, and processes. These enablers must be supported by management. For instance, people are encouraged to identify emerging failure modes by how they are treated at risk management meetings. Data base and data tools are prioritized for regular upgrades.
This model is simple to remember, but has a tremendous power to provide clarity to every nook and cranny of sustainment management. More on that later in this article.
The following CSSMM definitions are provided in a specific order. The first ones are basic definitions and the later ones get into more subtle areas.
Readiness Factors: Two to six system independent characteristics that, if violated, will affect the system’s ability to perform its mission. For instance, the vast majority of systems must be both reliable when used and available when needed. Some must provide accuracy while others need to deliver persistence over a target. Some systems might require survivability on orbit. Others may need stealth. Readiness factor requirements are often measured across many individual systems and aggregated. This improves the precision of the estimate, usually to the benefit of the mission.
Sustainment: Support of the system to ensure continued mission capability. Some view logistics as sustainment, or supply as sustainment, or depot activities as sustainment. Others raise expert engineers or astute program managers to be the most important element of sustainment. In this lexicon, sustainment encompasses all the skills required to provide support of the deployed system. Experts in funding sources are just as important as expert repair techs or engineers.
Mission: The reason the system is employed. The military warfighter’s or civil system operator’s mission is the sustainer’s mission. To emphasize: Sustainer mission statements that use the word “sustain” remove themselves too far from their actual mission. Sustainers must see themselves as part of the weapon system warfighter’s or civilian system operator’s team.
System: A set of interacting components. In this handbook, the system includes everything required for the operator to employ the hardware and embedded software to achieve the mission. For instance, manned strategic bombers are designed and deployed to carry out the military doctrine of strategic bombardment against a nation’s ability to wage war. World-wide lighter than air Wi-Fi vehicles are designed and deployed to ensure internet coverage in even the most remote parts of Earth. An SR-71 cannot fulfill its recon mission without its associated tanker aircraft.
Sustainment Risk: A risk that can be shown to impact the mission via the system readiness factors. When programs are spawned to mitigate an identified sustainment risk, they should have their own program risk boards. Contractual problems such as between contractors or between contractors and the government can be dealt with via business risk management boards. Mixing these boards creates confusion and reduces effectiveness.
Assessment: Observation of the system to find changes in performance, determine if those changes affect the system readiness parameters, and characterize them if they do.
Complex System: Systems are considered complex when they can enter states unpredictably. (In ICBMs this property leads directly to the concept of failing safe.)
Complicated System: A system with many, many components interacting in many, many ways.
Lead Time Ahead: A phrase meant to capture the need to consider when the risk might be realized versus the time it will take to mitigate it. Design and development schedules are fixed by many other factors. In the sustainment phase, projects to mitigate future risks are primarily created based on the timing of risk realization.
Capabilities Baseline: Once the system is deployed, the operator begins to perceive and depend upon capabilities of the system that might not be captured in any design documentation. This becomes an important baseline for the sustainer which might not be documented anywhere! This is yet another reason sustainers must be in the same team as the operators. (In addition, this concept also gets us musing about the other factors that are different when you are in the sustainment phase such as schedule, system modifications integration, deployment scheduling and integration, & etc.)
Process Discipline: The actions of your people as they follow organizational processes. Improvements can only occur if the teams respect the processes and improve them instead of ignoring them. Audits that focus on improvements instead of blame and processes to quickly change processes support this organizational goal. Lack of discipline will result in confusion, such as data acquired over decades that cannot be used together in the same graph to characterize the system. Process champions are farmers; crisis saviors are cowboys. Sometimes cowboy heroes are needed, but when they ride off into the sunset the bad guys return unless the farmers made process changes and follow them.
That’s enough for now. For a longer list, see my blog: “Complex Systems Sustainment Model Glossary” at charlesvono.com.
So, switching gears, another set of definitions are associated with the concept of a management model. A management model helps the team stay focused on the important actions required today, this week, this month, this year, amidst a sea of crisis activity typical to a sustainment office. A good management model is:
- Self-improving – anti-fragile, or at least robust
- Constant — unaffected by changing laws, regulations, or fads
- Applicable to the very complex systems employed today
- Memorable — easily called to mind
- Practical — easy to apply, common lexicon
- Integrated — internally consistent
This CSSMM model can be used to drill down into specific requirements for your team. For instance, since you know that the products of your risk management system must allow your finance folks to effectively communicate with your purse-string holders, processes can be tailored to make that most effective. Because your risk managers must be able to understand the observations of the system and the observers’ assessments, key steps would include testing consistent over decades so that resulting data can be used together.
If your sustainment team understands this model, team members and managers, it keeps them focused on the mission and it helps them understand what are the important things to do this day, this week, this month, or this year. It helps make each member a leader. It creates a culture.
Next article: the sustainment risk system. How is it different from all other risk management systems?