Macdill Partners with Muma College of Business

Air force base to streamline operations with help from business school

TAMPA – MacDill Air Force Base is partnering with experts from the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business to streamline operations and potentially trigger one of the largest lean management transformations ever. Working with the Sixth Air Mobility Wing (6 AMW), USF professors will research MacDill's management, culture, and business practices, including the transformation initiative known as Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO21), before crafting a change management strategy aimed at infusing the "Lean" management program into daily operations. The project could potentially impact operations throughout the entire United States Air Force.

"Our goal is to increase combat effectiveness" said Lt. Col. Jim Ledbetter, the 6 AMW AFSO21 director. "We will improve combat effectiveness with the principles of AFSO21, by building a stronger, more agile and combat capable force that our nation can call upon."

The Air Force is using AFSO21 to develop a culture of continuous process improvement and waste elimination, said Ledbetter, adding that, like the nation in general, the Air Force is facing great resource constraints such as aging systems, increasing cost, and outdated processes. Through this fundamental transformation, the Air Force will identify performance gaps and allow airmen to find innovative and more effective ways to accomplish missions, exploit opportunities, and maximize efficiencies.

"AFSO21, along with USF's experts Jerry Koehler and John Jermier, will help the Air Force develop airmen that are problem-solvers," Ledbetter said. "This will keep us on the leading edge and enable the USAF to remain the greatest air force in the world."

AFSO21 is a program born from the successes the air force experienced with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lean Aerospace Initiative (now known as the Lean Advancement Initiative - LAI). LAI enables enterprises to effectively, efficiently and reliably create value in complex and rapidly changing environments. USF was the fifth university in the nation to offer Lean educational courses based on programs developed by MIT's LAI.

A key part of this congressionally-funded project will be an evaluation of the initiatives currently in place to streamline operations through the AFSO21 program. Part of a research grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the evaluation will include in-depth research of MacDill's management, culture, current efficiency measures, and business processes. Led by principal investigators and professors Koehler and Jermier, the nearly three-quarter-million-dollar research program will include both the 6 AMW and the 927th Air Refueling Wing, the 6 AMW's Air Force Reserve sister wing.

"The goal is to create and implement an organizational change strategy for both wings' based on our research findings," said Koehler, an expert in organizational leadership, design, change, and development. "We will determine if their current attempts at being lean are, in fact, effective before designing a program," he said. "We will look to replicate effective practices and improve processes that are wasteful or inefficient."

Col. Larry Martin, the 6 AMW Commander, said he is looking forward to the project partnership, which he envisions will help MacDill be "one team with no seam" and lead to a long-term relationship between USF's business school and MacDill. He is excited to have the experts from USF come to MacDill and look at the current efforts to lean processes and create a culture of continuous process improvement as he is confident the partnership and the project will produce results that will help MacDill and the 6 AMW, along with reserve partner the 927 ARW, move towards the goals and objectives set forth in MacDill's strategic, long-term plan, and his vision for the 6 AMW to be "America's Best Wing!"

USF Muma College of Business Dean Robert Forsythe believes the mutually beneficial partnership will spark future educational opportunities for MacDill's employees as well as research opportunities for USF's scholars. "We will work to improve efficiencies at the base and, at the same time, provide an avenue for our faculty to examine struggles in the organizational change process," he said, noting that one of the benefits of being a top research university is the opportunity to bring real-time, real-world lessons into the classroom. "Students in our management courses will be learning from the very instructors who will be spearheading this project."