What Keeps B-52s in the Air?

I recently visited Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to attend my son’s retirement ceremony celebrating 21 years of service. The Minot base is one of only two that support B-52 bombers, and one of only three bases that support Minute Man Missiles.
While the B-52s are impressive, what really struck me was the unwavering sense of mission, teamwork and professionalism that I witnessed in all the personnel, regardless of rank. Do you see that kind of dedication in your company?
The operations at Minot AFB were truly World Class and Lean, yet when I asked the servicemen and women if they had been trained in Lean or used its processes, they didn’t know what I was talking about. The behavior they showed came from the culture of the Air Force and their dedication to their mission.
Everyone we spoke with had a clear understanding of the mission they supported: whatever it took, they had to be sure the B-52s were available when needed, anywhere in the world. The B-52 is the only aircraft allowed to support US nuclear missions, so it’s critical that they’re maintained and available 24/365. When I asked people what the purpose of their job was, they would stand proudly and tell us without hesitation.
Every department we visited displayed photos of its team members. People seemed particularly willing to go the extra mile to help each other and to contribute to the team’s success. They not only spoke proudly of their own work, but shared stories about how they’d helped a team member overcome a difficulty or get the necessary resources they needed to do their job.
The support they gave our son during his retirement ceremony was particularly touching. Over 100 people attended, taking time to show respect to someone who had given 21 years to the service, which they referred to as their Air Force family.
The overall professionalism was notable. Everyone we met was helpful, open, polite and respectful. I haven’t been called “sir” that many times since my own service in the Air Force 40 years ago. As we walked around a B-52, servicemen stopped their work to ask if we had any questions. When we did, they answered in terms we could understand.
The machine shops and warehouses we toured were extremely clean and organized. Tools were on shadow boards, flow was efficient, and key performance measures were displayed for all to see right in the work areas. I was told that at each week’s staff meeting, the Squadron Commander began by reviewing key measures with the responsible person, adding information and actions as appropriate. It looked like Lean to me, but again, when I asked, no one knew what Lean was.
The Air Force is an excellent example of how to create an effective organization. A clear sense of mission and vision, teamwork and professionalism create an organization that is strong, successful and ready to meet the needs of the global business environment.
From the Flight Deck
How would you describe the sense of mission at your company? When you look around, do you see supportive teamwork and professionalism? To find out more about how to set this foundation for accelerated profitability and growth, get in touch with me.
© 2015 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved