Many Federal organizations, including the DoD, have demonstrated difficulties in creating and maintaining agile processes. This is most likely due to the already existing methods of ensuring compliance. National policies get formalized. The DoD issues formal written directives to ensure national policies are followed and no laws are broken. Various entities within the USAF issue regulations to codify the required actions. In the case of operations and maintenance of weapon systems, these actions are formalized into actual written orders called “technical orders”. Stray from the technical order and formal discipline is forthcoming.
So when it becomes time to create local processes for sustainers to follow, a myriad of existing direction, plus direction on how to provide directions, means that processes are created with some difficulty. Public punishments in recent years have increased the desire of some to be “risk adverse” and avoid “rocking the boat”. When processes are finally published, they could be out of date and missing key steps. Updates occur with similar difficulty.
All of this can be avoided by approaching sustainment processes with an inverted mind-set. Although processes cannot include steps that break law or counter policy, these dangers are much less than the perception. Processes should mirror current actions. Audits should occur regularly, but not to ensure personal compliance with processes, but to quickly update them to the current best practice. Audits should never be perceived as a threat to the process users, but an opportunity to communicate information needed by team leaders and managers. Updates and sign-off should occur at the lowest levels possible. Mid management should review written processes to look for possible policy or public law violations and provide feedback if concerns are found. But the emphasis should be on quick updates to capture improvements.
Excellent sustainers strive to ensure their processes can be updated within one week and never take longer than two weeks. They ensure that interim deviations are easy to get. The auditor cultivates a cooperative atmosphere that draws out the needed changes from the process owners and implementers. Once these are identified, a responsible person grabs the process changes and gets them through review and sign-off. Top managers are key to this process as they cannot simply reject processes, but may at times even need to get “down and dirty” with the team to ensure process changes never linger due to management approvals. Metrics on audit coverage and process update times are critical to the managers and leaders to ensure they take the time each week to focus on whether the organizational processes are healthy and improving. Without active leadership on a weekly basis, the organization and its processes will stagnate. Sustainment affordability and effectiveness will immediately suffer without immediately understanding the real cause.