Eating a mobility elephant: First end-to-end look at 552nd mobility process through AFSO 21

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brett Sharp
  • 552nd Air Control Wing AFSO21 team lead
"Management by Hero" is how Maj. Chris Stoner, 552nd Air Control Wing deployments officer, described the wing's old mobility process.

"We were beating our mobility folks up in order to get crews out the door," said Lt. Col. Anthony Deckard, 552nd Operations Group. "At every point along the process chain, we found our deployment people were thrown into 16- to 18-hour days for what should have been a 'routine' eight- to 10-hour day. Additionally, our mobility experts were not collocated to allow them to share workload. This resulted in essentially one planner splitting time among three to four deployments."

But that was before the wing's mobility Rapid Improvement Event, or RIE, through the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century initiative.

Colonel Deckard led a team of 15 mobility experts from the 552nd ACW and the 72nd Air Base Wing to streamline and standardize the 552nd ACW mobility process so shortcuts and heroics would not be required. He also wanted to consolidate functions and smooth coordination with the 72nd ABW.

There were several motivators for this RIE.

"We get our folks to theater, but there is too much agony involved with getting there," Colonel Deckard said.

"What stops me from getting yelled at" was the previous mobility performance metric, according to Colonel Deckard - previous data on the process was anecdotal, and therefore not reliable for decision making. Future metrics will look at standard and consistent work, and sample deployment process results.

The team used the full gamut of AFSO21 tools to examine the process.

They looked at inputs and outputs through Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Output and Customers (SIPOC) diagrams. The team value stream mapped the mobility process, they determined the value added and non-value added steps, they employed cause and effect analysis, and supply chain analysis (SCOR).

Among the leading challenges the team faced was keeping the problem at a manageable level. Colonel Deckard emphasized the importance of putting time into the problem definition phase.

"While we knew many of the issues early, we were not able to ascertain the main crux of the problem until we were well into the analysis phase," he said. "We knew we had been served an elephant to eat and we were searching for where to take the first bite."

Several "A-ha" realizations occurred as the team progressed through their RIE.

The first thing they found was the wing's mobility process had never been mapped. As the team set to correcting that oversight, the enormous scope of their task began to emerge. A major finding was that no single process owner had day-day responsibility and authority for ensuring smooth operations of this "monstrosity."

Significantly, the team found the 27-step process was sound; however, sufficient quality control points were not in place to identify errors. Lack of systematic QC points allowed small, easily fixed issues to snowball into major problems requiring hours or days of rework to correct.

To address the team's findings, a consolidated Wing mobility team was created. Major Stoner was given responsibility for all day-to-day mobility operations as well as the authority to work mobility issues directly with the 552nd ACW vice commander, and the 72nd ABW installation deployment officer. Single source documentation and guidance, quality control measures and a wing-wide mobility education program are now being implemented throughout the next six to eight months.