ORI Preparation: securing intellectual capital

COLUMBUS AFB, Miss. -- What is intellectual capital, and more importantly, why should you care? Successful corporations often commit considerable resources to identify, capture and legally protect intellectual capital as it can be a significant source of competitive advantage. For our purposes, we'll narrow the definition of intellectual capital to mean the skills and knowledge that an organization has developed in its individual employees that it deems critical to its continued success. In this context, the Operational Readiness Inspection in May can be seen as the Air Education and Training Command Inspector General's judgment of our wing's ability to put its intellectual capital to practical use. 

As I mentioned during the Wing ORI Kickoff Briefing Oct. 10, the resource-constrained, expeditionary environment in which we operate precludes the use of a traditional ORI-prep mindset. We have not the manpower or the time to conduct ORI preparation for the sake of ORI preparation. We must use the opportunity to explore and exploit efficiencies, and instill more value in our daily operations. All of us need to direct energy and enthusiasm towards identifying, capturing, enhancing and preserving intellectual capital. People in our wing deploy, go TDY or on leave, or PCS every week. We often do not have enough time to get a full handoff on a primary or additional duty from our predecessor, or fully provide it to our successor. Get used to it. 

Our Air Force is transforming and we must adapt to operating in an environment of increasing change and fluidity. Harnessing the power of organizational intellectual capital by putting it in the person is no longer enough. You also need to put it in the process. You need to take the best concepts from your intellectual capital and covert it into practical capital--to make the intangible tangible. You have to write it down. You have to put it in operating instructions, in daily checklists, in continuity books or in any number of vehicles the Air Force uses to maintain continuity. Not everything, just the most critical aspects of any process - and get rid of the stuff that no longer contributes value. Once you write it down, communicate it, use it and follow-up. Make this dynamic approach part of the culture of your shop. 

Whether you recognize it or not, our current ORI prep efforts are all about this. We are crafting Compliance Binders to document and monitor exactly how the most value-added practices in our organizations should be accomplished. We are scrubbing all locally-produced publications throughout the wing to ensure that every single sentence makes sense, does not impose overly restrictive requirements, is current, and contains the least possible content. We are identifying all write-ups during the 2005 ORI and all 2006 and 2007 Staff Assistance Visits. We want to determine the root cause of why the finding occurred in the first place. We will then develop a Management Gameplan which eliminates the root cause and follows up through the winter and spring to ensure it stays "eliminated". Where it adds value, we are also implementing a standardized yet comprehensive Program Management Continuity Book structure to capture, preserve, and exploit critical intellectual capital in over 15 different functional areas. Across the wing in 2008, Program Management functions will be both more compliant and more efficient. 

All of these efforts seek to mine the intellects of our most experienced, successful professionals out working "in the trenches", and the efforts are led by the best leaders on this base - our commanders. By enhancing our organizational processes with the fruits of our individual and collective intellectual capital, we not only drive our organizations to excellence, but we leave a robust framework from which those who follow us can reach even greater heights. 

The old paradigm in ORI prep was how well do you know your job, and how well can you execute it? That's not enough in this 21st century Air Force. The new paradigm also demands you build the best of what you know into the process. How successfully does your area of responsibility operate while you are deployed, TDY or on leave? The true measure of how well your operation runs is not how well it runs when you are there, but how well it runs when you are not. It should not shut down or fall apart in your absence. Think about it. You must put some of the intellectual capital you have gained back into the process. Leave the organization better than you found it. 

For more information on how to capture, retain and employ intellectual capital in this wing, or to contribute your own outstanding ideas to any of our ORI prep efforts, call me at 434-7883.