How do you handle change?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Frank Battistelli
  • 386th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, deployed from Randolph AFB, Texas
Did you ever return to a base you were once stationed at or return to a town you once lived in discover that things were just not the same? The chemistry was different, people changed, and you didn't seem to fit in quite as well as you did the first time. Your recollection of the way things once were was different than what you found upon your return.

The same holds true in today's Air Force.

Ask one of your SNCOs or field grade officers what the Air Force was like when they entered the service 15-plus years ago. They would probably tell you performance reports were done using typewriters, e-mail was virtually non-existent, and most notably, manning was great. However, over the years, technology has significantly changed the way we do business and budget crunches have leveled manning.

As a mission support squadron commander, I asked my flight chiefs and supervisors to read a book called "Who Moved the Cheese" by Spencer Johnson. The book is about "change" and was especially important to the squadron at the time given the major transformation of personnel initiatives. The book discussed how important it is for people to adapt and change as the world changes and paradigms shift.

Unfortunately, people don't always respond to change; especially in the Air Force.

When is the last time you asked your supervisor why you do something a certain way and the answer you got back was "That's the way we've always done it," or "Because that's the way I learned it"?

We get hung up on antiquated procedures and fail to acknowledge that changes have occurred around us. Hey, typing an evaluation performance report on a typewriter worked very well, but you don't see us typing anything today. In fact, most of you have noticed that we are now digitally signing performance reports and never see the paper product until it's in our record. This is exactly what I mean. We must embrace change by looking at the way it can enhance our quality of life, or work centers, and move out of our comfort zone.

If you look at how change has impacted our world, you'll realize it's almost impossible to ignore.

Thomas L. Friedman, in his book titled "The World is Flat," discusses how the world has become flat over the last decade. By "flat" he means international barriers have been broken and the playing field has become level.

For example, if you are having computer problems at your home in Nebraska, you may pick up the phone and call a 1-800 phone number for computer support. To your surprise, you are connected to an English speaking technician in a foreign country 10,000 miles away from you. The same holds true for purchasing merchandise online or by phone. Technology has virtually eliminated commercial boundaries, and in essence, flattened the world.

As we accept that the world is changing, we have to make a decision to embrace change and keep the momentum or we will remain stagnant and risk missing opportunities.

My challenge to the men and women in today's Air Force is to ask yourself how you can enhance your life or work center by accepting change, adapting, and then slowly make the transition.