How do you handle change?

Compiled by Lt. Col. Frank Battistelli
386th Expeditionary Mission Support Group

Have you ever returned to a base where you were once stationed or go to a town where you once lived and 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.

You may have had high expectations, but unfortunately you were disappointed.

The same holds true in today’s Air Force.

Ask one of your senior NCOs or field grade officers what the Air Force was like when they entered the service 15-plus years ago. They would probably tell you that performance reports were done using typewriters − e-mail was virtually nonexistent − 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 My 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 that as the world changes and paradigms shift, it’s important for people to adapt and change with it. Unfortunately, people don’t always respond to change − especially in the Air Force.

Here’s what I mean:

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 tend to 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 telephonically. Technology has virtually eliminated the commercial boundaries and, in essence, flattened the world.

Once one begins to accept the world is changing all around them, they will have to make a decision, embrace change and keep the momentum or remain stagnant and risk missing opportunities.

My challenge to the men and women in today’s Air Force is to be in-tune with the changes occurring around you and embrace them. Don’t get caught up in complacency; instead, ask yourself how you can enhance your life or work center by accepting, adapting to change and then slowly making the transition.