How the Air Force Embraced "Partial Quality" (and Avoiding Similar Mistakes in New Endeavors)

By Rinehart, Graham W. "Gray" | Air & Space Power Journal, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

How the Air Force Embraced "Partial Quality" (and Avoiding Similar Mistakes in New Endeavors)


Rinehart, Graham W. "Gray", Air & Space Power Journal


We're also starting a whole new movement called "partial quality. " We think it'll have a much larger following.

-David Langford

Fourth Annual National Governors' Conference on Quality in Education, April 1995

SECRETARY OF THE Air Force Michael Wynne's first letter to the force set out several goals, two of which started the service on a new journey toward "Best in Class" excellence in business practices and "Lean Processes."1 Expanding these topics in his second letter, he called for "constant examination of our processes in order to recognize better ways of accomplishing the mission," specifically by applying "LEAN concepts beyond the depots and maintenance operations into the flightline and the office."2 In March 2006, the secretary released an expanded letter to Airmen with more details on this initiative, which had become known as Air Force Smart Operations 21 (AFSO21): "a dedicated effort to maximize value and minimize waste in our operations." In its emphasis on looking "at each process from beginning to end," not just "how we can do each task better, but. . . why [we are] doing it this way" (emphasis in original), and in its promise to "march unnecessary work out the door-forever," AFSO21 appeared reminiscent of other management revolutions many of us had been through before. The proclamation that "the continuous process improvements of AFSO 21 will be the new culture of our Air Force" could just as easily have been made for the era of Total Quality Management (TQM).3

Apparently an Air Force-specific packaging of industrial practice, similar to the Quality Air Force (QAF) program that repackaged TQM, AFSO21 even boasts its own Web site (http://www.afso21.hq.af.mil) and a dedicated Pentagon program office.4 We might imagine that TQM (or QAF) would have had its own Air Force Web site had the Internet been as developed then as it is now. Because innovations such as Web-based applications and training are commonplace today and because TQM originated when desktop computers were rare, it is easy to think of TQM as the product of a bygone era. But not everyone has forgotten TQM. As one retiring chief master sergeant recently put it, "I've been zero defected, total quality managed, micromanaged, one-minute managed, synergized, had my paradigms shifted, had my paradigms broken, and been told to decrease my habits to seven."5 During the 1980s and 1990s, the Air Force empowered, qualitycircled, and off-sited its Airmen; opened quality-related offices and institutions; and poised itself for a great leap out of the McNamara-inspired past (i.e., away from the Management by Objectives program touted by secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in the 1960s).

From the perspective of the large number of changes in management philosophy Airmen have weathered, AFSO21 seems like TQM or QAF redux, so it behooves us to recall the lessons of our last foray into this battle. Today the remnants of continuous improvement are not what Airmen hoped they would be. Advocates unreasonably applied reasonable ideas, to the point that they were eventually laughed out of professional military education courses (which themselves inexplicably became "developmental education," a phrase having more redundancy than precision). Airmen now snigger at anything that remotely resembles continuous improvement, rolling their eyes and declaring that it "sounds like another quality thing." Furthermore, "lean," "Six Sigma" (another concept borrowed from industry), and AFSO21 all sound very similar to what we heard in the days of TQM.6

We might think of the failure of TQM to permeate the Air Force as a battle lost or a battle won, depending on which side we took. The shame of the service's failure to adopt quality-improvement practices the first time around, however, is not that Airmen nurtured an unworkable or unworthy idea, but that they induced its birth prematurely and left it to die. If we're not careful, we may repeat our mistakes with new ideas-even if they are worthwhile. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How the Air Force Embraced "Partial Quality" (and Avoiding Similar Mistakes in New Endeavors)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.