On your list today: have you got balance?

  • Published
  • By Col. Kraig Hanson
  • 75th Mission Support Group commander
Got balance?

Throughout our work days and our home lives, we are constantly making trade-offs between one thing and another, whether we notice or not. Sometimes it's good to stop and take the time to notice, to step back and reflect on how we are balancing things.

Our Air Force is going through a significant re-balancing now; reducing resources, increasing some missions, and decreasing others. In the mission support group (as well as other groups/offices), some of these reductions came without definitive guidance on how to re-balance, how to apply our reduced capabilities against the wide array of customer services we provide. Your mission support group is actively working with customers, within work centers and with headquarters to redefine what it offers based on military necessity and customer demands. As we move through this balancing effort, it brings to my mind several other areas of balance, areas that many of us throughout Team Hill would do well to reflect upon. What perspectives, what roles are you taking at work? How do you balance trust and compliance? How do you balance urgent work versus important work?

Balancing roles

All of us have multiple roles at work: trainee, trainer, supervisee, supervisor, co-worker, Airman, union member, supervisor, safety official, wingman, warrior, customer, customer service rep, team member, etc. Which roles are you in most often? More importantly, which roles do you need to think about more? Most of us spend a lot of time as subordinates completing our work center's primary mission: knocking out that next maintenance task, helping that next customer, training for deployed tasks, standing watch over the installation, supervising and mentoring our charges, etc. That primary mission role comes easy. But when a co-worker is off track, for instance, you need to figure out your role and the role of those around you. Who will advocate for the offender, and remind everyone of the whole person concept? Who will advocate for the Air Force, ensuring that the rules and values of our institution are considered? When you see a safety issue or a customer service issue, are you ready to be that on-the-spot trainer or that advocate for the Air Force? What will you say and do in these roles? If you're deployable, are you ready for that role? Ready in your deployment window? Ready for that exercise? Taking some time to think about the roles you might need to play in the future will allow you to prepare to play them better.

Balancing trust?

Many of us on Hill are making ourselves "inspection ready." The medical group has its upcoming Health Services Inspection and also joins many others in prepping for Unit Compliance Inspections. Outside of inspections, Long-Time Supervisor may be talking to Trusted Employee and say something like "By the way, did you when you worked on that ?" Trusted Employee might say "Yea, everything went great." With an inspection around the corner, Long-Time Supervisor (or maybe Quality Inspector) might now say, "Show me." Trusted Employee can have a few different reactions, from "No problem, here's the documentation" to "Why, you don't believe me when I say I did it?" (If it's the latter, Trusted Employee should see previous paragraph and choose a different role.) We have "designed in," through our policies and inspection processes, what is fine to trust implicitly and what is important to be able to verify. These policies and processes are there for various reasons, most notably safety, compliance with law, and efficiency. All are trusted to do their work properly to include the building of required evidence of compliance. This should be happening all the time, which is why we have periodic self inspections, not just infrequent Inspector General inspections. If it's not happening, if we aren't continuously inspection-ready, it's not a matter of rebalancing trust, it's a matter of bringing the work up to speed all the time, not just prior to an inspection.

Balancing workload

Now we arrive at something probably more familiar, something most everyone will relate to, balancing work priorities. There is always more work to be done: reviewing infrequently performed tasks and training, learning new skills, seeking out mentorship, mentoring others, keeping up with secondary duties, helping co-workers, improving processes, and responding to the "ding" of a new email. How do you balance your workload? Do you take the time to step back and reflect on your priority system? Are you evaluating what's urgent versus what's important? Are you spending enough time on the urgent while leaving time for the important? Does your work center need to break away from the routine for uninterrupted time dedicated to improvements or changes? What are you doing to make that happen?

When it comes to balance, there can be a lot to think about, and there are definite impacts -- impacts to how your work center operates, how you and your co-workers grow, how well your work center does when put to the inspection test, all leading to how well the Air Force carries out its missions. So take the time to think about balance, your Air Force will be better off for it.