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NEWS | Aug. 16, 2017

Combating Burnout

By Major Katy Tenpenny 11th Wing

This commentary is not an Air Force endorsement of any commercial product or company. The process discussed is an alternative to the endorsed Air Force problem solving techniques.

In an effort to improve Airmen and their families’ quality of life, the Air Force has placed an emphasis on addressing work overload that can cause Airmen to burnout or become mentally, physically and emotionally drained.

This issue is one of 11th Wing Commander Col. E. John Teichert’s 2017 strategic initiatives. To find a solution, we implemented a supplemental problem solving technique – the Google Ventures sprint process.

Sprint is a five-day process which allows six to nine group members to quickly and efficiently tackle tough problems.

Once our group was selected, we started by setting specific five-day goals and defining the problem of what can cause burnout and at what level it may exist.

We then set out on a road map throughout the week of sketching solutions, picking ideas to test, building a prototype, and testing it. 

By the end, we developed a list of quick action items that aid in eliminating Airmen burnout. Additionally, we authored a wing supplement to AFI 36-2706 which establishes quarterly burnout focus groups. These groups will be led by the Wing Equal Opportunity team. The focus will be ground sourcing ideas to improve Airmen lives. Last, we created an 11th Wing Battle Rhythm to add predictability to all Commanders’ schedules, as well as, built in quarterly Esprit de Corps time into the calendar.

The biggest reason this process is successful in solving problems in a short amount of time is that it eliminates group think, which stalls conversations and stifles creativity. Group discussion is still a critical competent of the process which usually involves sketching, voting on ideas, and prototyping. These are generally executed as individuals during set times. This deliberate process enables each member to provide their individual ideas, while coming together as a collective team to finalize and prototype solutions.

Taking part in the sprint was a really rewarding experience, especially knowing that we tackled a large, important problem and developed possible solutions to improve Airmen’s lives.

For help with burnout, talk to your chain-of-command, visit or call 800-342-9647.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, some signs of burnout are physical and emotional exhaustion, alienation from work-place activities and reduced performance.