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How good OSI units become GREAT!

QUANTICO, Va. --

What are the hallmarks of a great OSI team?  Accomplish the mission…check.  Take care of Airmen…check. We are fortunate that these two priorities are interwoven into the fabric of our Air and Space Forces and our command. Most OSI units are doing both, very well. So then, when you survey all the successful OSI offices, how do you further distinguish between the good and the great? I offer 10 characteristics that set the best OSI units apart from their peers.

Has integrity and holds each other accountable - We need environments that embrace critical and timely feedback; up, down and across the chain of command. The only way any of us improve is with honest feedback. Share what is going well and what is not going well, make adjustments and move forward.  They can be hard to have, but most of us want candid conversations. We want to know what others expect and if we are meeting the mark.  Blast through whatever barriers are keeping you from sharing the truth.

Level and scope of impact - The best units have a positive impact beyond just their mission set and geographic area of responsibility. They identify problems and solutions that reach outside of their office, and making contributions to their supported customers and for our command. They squeeze the most potential out of every opportunity.

Procedural compliance and builds lean processes - We are a compliance organization. Our efforts get a tremendous amount of oversight, and rightly so. At the far end, the responsibilities with which we are entrusted have consequences for people’s lives and liberties. Compliance is facilitated by rigorous, consistent processes. Most Airmen do not jump out of bed every morning excited to create a new process. Process is not sexy, but a transparent, predictable process will remove frustration, create efficiencies and enhance the quality of life in the office – that will last beyond personalities.

Learning leaders - The best leaders are committed to personal and professional growth. They are self-aware. They are confident in their strengths and honest about their weaknesses. They are dedicated to getting better and build improvement as a part of their daily routine. This can be done outside the formal classroom though books, articles, podcasts, TED talks, etc. These leaders are also not afraid to take calculated risks, try something new, fail and learn, then try again. They also share what they’ve learned to develop those around them.

Innovative and flexible - The OSI/CC has outlined his bold vision for the command. We won’t realize his vision if we maintain the status quo. The General wants to hear your ideas. We must continue to evolve, and every OSI Airmen is critical to our evolution. Today’s adversaries are more agile. We have to adapt and have a similar agility. Having inclusive teams made up of diverse talent and thought helps us to look at problems and opportunities differently and develop creative and novel solutions. 

Understand and manages risk - OSI Airmen are problem solvers.  There are few problems that we can’t find some way to solve; but just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. The OSI/CC trusts his teams to know where to adjust and take risk necessary for their mission, customers and situation. The best teams find this balance, and also know when to ask for more clarification, guidance and help, for when they are out of balance.

Identifies/anticipates problems and brings solutions - The most successful leaders and teams are able to anticipate problems before they arise. This comes through experience and situational awareness. They use data to identify trends and patterns, as well as enable frequent conversations with teammates. They then encourage input from all members of the unit. None of us are as smart as all of us.

Selfless teamwork - The premiere units have a clear vision of where they are headed, with buy-in from the team. The members understand their role and how they fit in to meet the overarching goals. Being a good Wingman is emphasized over singular interest. Cooperation valued over competition. This builds faith between the teammates. When times are hard, they know they have each other’s backs. One excellent way to foster teamwork is by developing our 300 (DO300) events. These opportunities are intended to break down the barriers within our teams, enabling a better understanding of and care for each other, by creating tighter and genuine relationships.

Exceeds suspense and executes timely documentation - We are given many different, and often competing, priorities and requirements. The standards and expectations are articulated.  Many tasks are routine and predictable. The best units are deliberate in understanding what is expected, then execute a plan to accomplish tasks on time or early. If a unit is continually late on evaluations, decorations, timeliness, TMT tasks, etc…that’s a red flag that should drive a conversation about to what the unit is paying attention.

Communicates often with higher headquarters - The HHQ is not an adversary of the field unit; but that’s often the perception. This belief drives a wedge between a unit and its HHQ. The best units see the value in a partnership with their HHQ staff and communicate frequently to bring ideas, ask for clarification and guidance, champion their people, crosstalk to share best practices and lessons learned; and even flag deficiencies and personnel issues. There is much truth in the cliché, “Bad news does not get better with time.” There are more and better solutions available at the beginning of a personnel issue, than at the end. If a professional disagreement cannot be resolved between the staff and its subordinate unit, then it’s imperative the Commander and Special Agent-In-Charge bring the issue to the Region CC for adjudication. 

What I’m really discussing is culture. OSI/CC sets the culture, but we have to enforce it across all levels of the chain of command. Our Commander and our people count on it. This is my opinion on what distinguishes units with a healthy culture. I hope you find it helpful and I welcome your thoughts on what you see based on your own unique experiences.