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What’s in a buzz word?

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- How many times have we heard the words resiliency, innovation, mentorship or diversity?  

What’s your reaction when hearing one of those words? Is it rolling your eyes at a seemingly overused word? Is it scratching your head because you’re not exactly sure what it means? Is it being empowered or inspired to make the changes you want to see in your organization or personal life? Whatever it may be, I challenge each one of us to start making use cases for these important concepts.

I borrow the term use case from the product development literature and from the practice of entrepreneurs. Before building a full business case for a new technology, product, or service, entrepreneurs must find viable use cases – categories of use by an identifiable customer, well defined so the number of potential customers can be counted, that would justify building out the full business case. By describing the use case, and for whom that use is compelling, the entrepreneur begins to clarify why his or her new venture should be created and why investors should give them seed money.

In much the same way that the technology, products or services of entrepreneurs are tools that need use cases, so is organizational language. Words, acronyms, phrases or visuals are modular bits of language that act as tools to help organizations find the right, or at least a shared meaning through use cases. As the Air Force seeks to embrace concepts such as resiliency and innovation, we need language and use cases that demonstrate what practices will or can change and how they are to change.

I believe the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s phrase – revitalizing the squadron – is a great example of new language that can be concretely linked to practice through the identification of use cases for it. How do we internalize this phrase in our day-to-day operations? What does it mean to our individual squadrons? To our offices, shops, teams Airmen? What does revitalizing the squadron look like day to day?

I would suggest that it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to daily operations, deliverables or taskers. Rather, we should ask how we revitalize the squadron as a unit of support, a unit to identify, magnify and multiply individual strengths, as well as to provide the necessary support to remediate areas for learning and growth. 

I find proof of my squadron’s renewal in the coping ability of one of my Airmen who came back to work. Shortly after experiencing a personal tragedy, she was ready to do her job and help those under her learn theirs. I find proof in the willingness of my squadron to invest a lot of time and energy in redesigning and rewriting our unit emblem, although we are told it is an uphill battle we are unlikely to win. I find proof in the ingenuity of one of my flight’s traveling finance initiatives, where they take their services and support out to where our customers are working. 

By actively looking for and creating use cases for revitalizing the squadron we engage a variety of people inside and outside the squadron to make the case for why we’re changing, what we’re changing, and how we’re changing. In so doing, we are getting closer to embodying the principles and practices of resiliency, innovation, mentorship, and diversity that are needed to revitalize squadrons.

I would suggest that Airmen should ask what revitalizing the squadron looks like for them, both in terms of accomplishing the Air Force, Air Mobility Command, and 22nd ARW mission, as well as in terms of individual growth.