JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Rather than determining manpower needs within units using potentially inefficient practices, the Air Force Manpower Analysis Agency developed a new process to ensure personnel are performing duties in the most effective manner prior to developing manpower standards.
The Enterprise Process Improvement program, or EPI, was created in partnership with the Office of Business Transformation and Air Force Deputy Chief Management Officer function (SAF/MG) to analyze and evaluate organizations on current processes and provide assistance in areas that need improvement.
“It’s a continuous process improvement process,” Gerald Torrey, AFMAA management analyst, said. “Everything is set up to ensure that once you improve processes, you have a strategy to continue to evaluate your organization and make changes where needed so there are long-term sustained improvements.”
Torrey said EPI’s overall goal is to provide the customer with five things: a standardized work document, a streamlined way to perform designated tasks; a standard activity time, how long a task should take; performance metrics, a way to measure the work; a workload data collection reporting system, an accurate, consistent method of collecting metrics; and a continuous process improvement implementation plan, a strategy for offices to move forward instead of reverting back to inefficient practices.
Before implementing EPI across the Air Force enterprise, AFMAA first installed a testing phase wherein six Air Force functions fielded and tested the new EPI process. Education and training centers at locations across all MAJCOMs were one of these test functions.
“The response we’ve gotten back has been very receptive,” Torrey said.
The idea for EPI started in conjunction with building a manpower standard with the purpose of trying to solve problems in workplace practices up front, rather than providing solutions on the backside, Torrey said.
“We map their ‘as-is’ processes with all the inefficiencies, rework and decision points,” Torrey said. “Then we analyze that information and make recommendations.”
New processes were discovered through workshops; one workshop looked at the “as-is” processes and the other looked at how processes were “to be,” with all the wasteful steps and inefficiencies removed. The workshops included subject matter experts from the education and training community with representatives from all MAJCOMs.
“The people that are actually working the processes, they know where the waste is,” Troy Smalley, AFMAA management analyst, said. “In the end, they’re making the decisions to make the work better to give them a better workplace that will improve their morale.”
The EPI process will provide additional benefits beyond more efficient practices, said Staff Sgt. Brittainny Jones, AFMAA management analyst.
“We can trim the fat and just make it streamlined from point A to point B,” Jones said. “We can make it simple, save time and save money.”
The standardized process also provides a simple way to ensure positive performance on Management Internal Control Toolset inspections, the unit and work center inspection system.
“We tried to map our organization maturity model to be closely tied to what MICT requirements are and with Air Force Instructions,” Torrey said. “Meaning, our model helps organizations identify areas for improvements and once implemented should address or satisfy unit deficiencies, thereby increasing unit effectiveness.”
One of the most beneficial factors of the EPI, however, is it can be used Air Force wide, Torrey said.
“Any organization can take this EPI process, because we’ve designed tools any organization can use, and pull it off the shelves and evaluate themselves,” Torrey said.
Master Sgt. Ronald Mathews, 1st Manpower Requirements Squadron NCO in charge, A-Flight, added the wide scope of the EPI will benefit Airmen at all levels because it will prevent individuals from learning different processes for the same task. He said it could be a process as simple as a sign-in log.
“That’s what we like about this process because we’re going to standardize it across the enterprise where everyone is doing the same thing so when they go to the next base, they don’t have to worry about it being done differently,” Matthews said.
Although standardized processes will be approved for use and sent out to workplaces Air Force wide, it doesn’t mean fresh developments can never be implemented, Torrey said.
“If you find a better way to do that standard work, there will be mechanisms put in place where that information can be funneled up to Air Staff for evaluation,” Torrey said. “That is the game plan to keep the processes refreshed and renewed for continuous improvement.”
Torrey said AFMAA updated its own processes in order to produce a timely EPI product, adding that manpower standards can often take an excess of three years to produce.
“We don’t even have the same iPhone over a three year period,” Torrey said. “Technology, mission changes, things happen on a rapid basis. Listening to the voice of the customer, we had to improve our process as well.”
The education and training function is currently testing its new processes to ensure standardization at all locations and AFMAA plans to finalize the approved manpower standard in March 2017, one year from when from when EPI was originally implemented. AFMAA is currently implementing a newer version of this process with other Air Force functions, continuing along the path of continuous improvement of its EPI program.