'Back to the basics' approach gets it right the first time

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Mitch Shimmel
  • 96 Civil Engineering Squadron
Basic mistakes in anyone's work will jeopardize production time and drive additional funding. It does not matter what your job or craft is, if you are working for the Air Force, your job is to support our ultimate objectives to fly, fight and win.

Without your support and work ethic, planes would not leave the ground, vehicles would not roll to an accident scene or the pilots and first responders would be tied up reaccomplishing tasks that are diverting their time and energy to fix simple problems. This is something that applies to everyone up and down the chain of command and I am guilty of it too.

Integrity was driven into my work ethic from the first day I stepped off the bus at basic training. I remember instructors screaming, "Do it right the first time!" It doesn't matter if you are the one initiating the action or processing the action. Whether you are processing a voucher, applying for SGLI, updating your vRED, fixing an engine, calibrating sensitive equipment, if you make a mistake or don't enter the correct information, you have to revisit the task again and fix the problems.

Just recently, I had to own up to my own mistakes after filing a travel voucher incorrectly. Going back a second time on a task can cause additional work, stress on individuals, equipment and vehicles being down for repair and ultimately, the big Air Force machine will slow down, costing both time and money.

Particularly important to the Eglin mission are delays in weapons development projects. Fixing basic mistakes will cost literally thousands of dollars and add additional stress to timelines. All leadership asks of us is to take the extra five minutes and pay attention to the small details to get it right the first time.

This simple, but important, step helps reduce unit workloads, personal aggravation and cost. If you are a frontline supervisor, pay attention to the number of times you or your personnel go back to fix basic mistakes. Try to identify a root cause for any issues and take the time to fix the problems. Provide additional training and reinforce the expectations for job performance, if necessary. Slowing your people down to do it right the first time will ultimately be paying you forward and reducing your own workloads.

For superintendents and senior managers, pay close attention to increases in process actions, huge amounts of time being spent on fixing simple mistakes and the overall morale of your unit. Morale is an excellent indicator if the machine is running properly or if there is a struggle within the team.

With today's high operational tempo, we are all doing more with less and have accepted it as our everyday norm. We have to go back to the basics to improve our processes and to do it right the first time in everything that we do.

As I grew up through the enlisted tiers, we were taught to always expect people to do the best they can, whatever the task. If they sometimes do not meet the mark, help them figure it out so the next time they are faced with the same task, they already know the solution. The less time we spend fixing mistakes, the more time we can spend on important issues like training and taking care of our Airmen. I hope each of you can personally challenge yourself and spend the extra time to go back to the basics and get it right the first time.