QUANTICO, Va. --
Know yourself...know your team...lead your people...execute the mission. That mantra forms the Air Force’s only organizational development directorate that was created 35 years ago as a mission enabler within the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
While the directorate’s approach may have changed over the decades, they remain steadfast to help equip the command’s philosophy of a participative leadership in the pursuit of mission success, development of people and organizational excellence at all levels.
One holistic illustration is how The Leadership Challenge Forum, presented by OSI’s Organizational Development directorate, gathers newly assigned enlisted, officer and civilian field leaders for two weeks to instill a foundation of participative leadership skills. OSI is one of the few Department of Defense organizations to provide a command-specific training and education course fully devoted to all three rank structures.
“OD has been committed to OSI’s leadership development and facilitating improvement at the individual, team and command levels,” said Mr. Ken Sallinger, OD director. “To pursue this extraordinary purpose, OSI’s initial Leadership Challenge Forum iteration was created nearly three decades ago to develop and prepare new field leaders for their challenging assignments.”
The first of three separate sessions in 2017 began Jan. 30 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va.
LCF explores the principles, methods and challenges of leadership and how best to succeed as an operational-level leader in the organization. Participants are placed into small teams led by an OSI coach whose primary responsibility is to guide and mentor participants where each participant shares their own thoughts and experiences.
“Just like our Air Force and OSI command, LCF draws its strength from the diversity and inclusion of leaders and coaches from all areas and levels of the organization,” Mr. Sallinger said.
LCF delves into leadership principles by teaching much more than academic theory. The purpose-driven curriculum provides daily practical knowledge and application for the field leader to use immediately with his or her team. Enter OSI’s Blueprint to Execution that serves as a unit’s guide to help equip them through mission challenges for increased effectiveness and is a collaborative guide to accomplish the mission while developing and serving others.
“We all recognize there are several ways to lead,” said Special Agent Adam Johnson, LCF manager. “LCF and the field’s Blueprint is a practical framework, or road map, to equip leaders in taking on the challenge.”
Besides the Blueprint to Execution, the LCF offers instruction on values, emotional intelligence, leadership styles, defining conflict, situational leadership, leadership philosophy, coaching, continuous process improvement, performance feedback and developing leaders on how to navigate the most critical team functions.
There are also blocks devoted to various OSI headquarters staff presentations such as Strategic Programs and Requirements, the Investigation Collections and Operations Nexus, Inspector General, Staff Judge Advocate, and Professional Staff and Resources.
OSI Command Chief Master Sgt. Christopher J. VanBurger, OSI Executive Director, Special Agent Jeffrey D. Specht and OSI Commander, Brig. Gen. Keith M. Givens also share their senior leadership perspectives at each LCF.
“Leadership is always human,” General Givens said prior to the LCF. “It takes time and energy, it is hard work, which is why great leadership is special when we find it.”
While LCF participants are preparing to lead, the target audience is everyone serving in OSI. A leader must grow others’ leadership skills within the unit, not only to inspire future leaders, but to successfully execute the mission.
“If the organization’s ‘environment of excellence’ rested only with its official leaders, it would surely fail,” Mr. Sallinger said.
LCF’s success is not only measured by improving individual leadership skills, but by enabling leaders to use those skills to build stronger, more effective teams to develop future OSI and Air Force leaders.
“Measuring a team’s development is difficult and takes targeted effort,” said Mr. David McVay, OD analysis and assessment program manager. “With this in mind, OD created a tailor-made Unit Dynamics Profile assessment system to help teams gauge their progress. The UDP offers units with a helpful tool in determining their collective direction, team roles, operating processes, interpersonal relationships and inter-team relationships.”
The LCF and UDP are just two of many services offered by the Organizational Development directorate.
OD is also the command’s Master Process Office and instructs the Air Force’s Practical Problem Solving Method through seminars and certification processes to help focus on eliminating waste, money and time, and developing solutions that free up units to concentrate on higher priorities.
“We work with headquarters, region and field leaders to improve our organization through the Continuous Process Improvement program,” said CPI Program managers Ms. Jakki Dixon and Special Agent Etai Shpak.
“Continuous process improvement is one hallmark of highly successful organizations and is integral to the Air Force Inspection System,” General Givens wrote in an Oct. 27, 2016, memorandum to all OSI personnel. “OD is producing a long-range CPI developmental and capacity building plan to complement AFOSI’s existing enterprise management system. It will be unique to the command’s mission requirements.”
OD wants OSI to take stock in CPI this year.
“As we continue through 2017, we’ll highlight the importance of cultivating a CPI culture and encourage members at all levels to evaluate their processes, provide innovative solutions and remain open to improvements wherever possible,” Mr. Sallinger wrote in a Jan. 26 command-wide email.
Whether partnering with individuals and teams through CPI, leadership development forums, or with units to assess their developmental progress, OD is committed to serve as an enabling force to the command and Air Force.