Innovation can be anyone’s idea

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher Thornbury
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
McConnell is the first base in Air Mobility Command to jump-start the quarterly and annual Innovation Awards when it was established in 2016.

The awards recognize an Airman’s or a team’s innovative accomplishments that have enhanced mission capability, improved operational performance or produced validated savings, similar to other wing quarterly and annual awards.

To date McConnell Airmen have saved over 37 million dollars and 5,000 man-hours.

“Every Airman has a fresh set of eyes and has an opportunity to improve their processes,” said Joseph Lett, 22nd Force Support Squadron wing process manager. “A lot of people are doing great things out there and we want to capture and recognize their effort — Innovator Awards allow us to do that.”

Anyone and everyone can be a member of the Continuous Process Improvement program, said Master Sgt. Carmen Futrell, 22nd FSS manpower superintendent. From our youngest Airman all the way up to our wing commander.

The CPI program establishes a culture of innovation by formalizing problem solving and training people on the tools to guide them through their own process improvement efforts.

“Some solutions have Air Force-level impact, we especially see a lot of great ideas here coming from our security forces members and Airmen on the flightline,” said Futrell. “If they are touching something on an aircraft and have developed an improvement, it usually can be applied to other bases or affect their entire career field.”

Ideas that may apply across the Air Force can be submitted through the Air Force Portal under the Airman Powered by Innovation program. This program focuses on tangible savings that could result in the innovator receiving a monetary award up to $10,000 for their submission.

“When someone has a good idea, the first thing they will need to do is start with their chain-of-command to discuss the problem they want to address” said Futrell.

During the meeting, the innovator will present a Root Cause Analysis form to clarify the problem, identify performance gaps and set the improvement target. At this point, it may be determined that a multi-day Rapid Improvement Event isn’t necessary and a ‘Just-do-It’ is more applicable.

Once the way forward is determined, a countermeasure plan is developed and presented to the champion, who is usually the commander for approval and action items are put into place. A comparison of historical data to recent data is used to track improvement and determine success or if they will be returning back to the drawing board.

“It is important that people are not discouraged if every idea doesn’t provide the results they imagined, sometimes we have to attack issues more than once before we find the best solution,” said Futrell.

There are several Green Belt practitioners in every unit that have been formally trained and can assist members with their innovations. For those who want to advance their training and skills in this area have the opportunity to be certified and move on to a Black Belt certification. Both certifications are transferrable on the outside through the AF COOL program as well.

While most people stick to their career fields due to their expertise, ideas from outside perspectives are very valuable and can have great impact, said Lett. Simply providing feedback to an agency outside of your own could be key to their solutions.

“Some folks are constantly thinking of ways to make things better,” said Futrell. Some Airmen think that they are simply doing their job without realizing there are awards for what they’re doing. It’s important to make sure they’re recognized for their accomplishments and that everyone sees the goodness that coming from it.

The CPI wing process manager is located at the manpower office and can be reached at 759-3082 or emailed at for more information.