Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to discover a new way of thinking about a work process to make it more efficient and effective in execution.
For the Air Force Materiel Command Continued Process Improvement team, the ‘outsider perspective’ is the heart and soul of their Air Force mission, which is to help AFMC teams to improve functions and processes across the command footprint.
“The goal of Air Force CPI is to eliminate waste and maximize value so that Airmen and civilians are able to be more efficient and effective in their jobs,” said LaVonne Allen, a program analyst in the AFMC Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments branch. “We use a number of proven CPI tools to help create new ways of thinking about problems and processes, producing solutions for not only teams here but ones that can ultimately expand to the enterprise level.”
The Air Force CPI program, previously known as Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, leverages Airmen innovation and new technologies to create a continuous cycle of process improvement and change in the service culture. The goal of the program is to improve mission execution while reducing costs, which ultimately maximizes taxpayer value of the force.
AFMC CPI practitioners are trained to use tools such as Lean Six Sigma methodologies, practical problem solving, and process engineering and re-engineering, among others, to help organizational units become more efficient and effective. CPI managers at the headquarters, center and wing level work one-on-one with teams looking to improve and can help facilitate problem solving, coach solution implementation and provide guidance for ongoing improvements across all missions and functional areas.
“Our people are the best resources to understand how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a business process,” said Allen. “Oftentimes, a civilian or Airman has an idea about a way they can improve a work process but lack the resources to suggest and implement change. That’s where the CPI team can help.”
Since inception, the AFMC CPI office has facilitated a number of activities across the command, ranging from consultations and process improvement events to strategic alignment and planning change. In 2018, the team played a key role in the headquarters merger of the separate Air, Space and Information Operations and Communications directorates into the Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations directorate, helping to codify the strategic goals, mission and vision of the new organization. More recently, the team codified the 10 AFMC Enterprise Key Working Processes, helping draw a greater focus on mission-critical activities with a direct impact on readiness for the force.
“We can coordinate and integrate continued process improvement command-wide, whether in the laboratory, products, testing, logistics or specialized mission areas,” said Allen.
The CPI office’s biggest challenge, according to Allen, is helping Airmen and civilians to be aware that they exist and stand ready to help identify and implement solutions across the mission spectrum.
“We are the problem solvers of the Air Force. Whether a large organizational change or an improvement to a day-to-day routine process, our team can help,” said Allen. “We need our civilians and Airmen to reach out to us with their ideas, and we will facilitate their efforts to help create that change.”
To contact the command CPI team with a problem or solution for change, email AFMC.CPI.MPO@us.af.mil. An Air Force-certified process improvement manager will evaluate the request and respond based on specific needs.