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NEWS | June 11, 2010

Commander's Vector - June 11

By Col. Ken Rizer 316th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander

Joining Team Andrews last Friday was one of the proudest moments of my life. A week on the job has only reinforced that pride, as everywhere I turn I see high caliber, motivated people doing their best to accomplish the mission and make Joint Base Andrews better.

My hat is off to Brig. Gen. (select) Steve Shepro for his fantastic leadership that made this all possible. His are large shoes to fill, but together we can sustain and build upon the team's enormous success these past two years.

Some key elements for taking Team Andrews to the next level are maintaining and enforcing high standards, "letting the big dogs run," and emphasizing teamwork.

When it comes to maintaining and enforcing standards, I'm a big believer in the Broken Window Theory.

The theory, created by Harvard sociologists George Kelling and James Q. Wilson, claims that if a broken window in a building goes unrepaired, vandals tend to break more windows.

Eventually, they may even break into the building, become squatters or light fires inside. The idea is that the lack of attention to small details creates an environment which leads to further problems.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani applied the theory to cleaning up New York City with great success.

Under the rubric of zero tolerance for small infractions, he enforced relatively minor offenses, creating an environment that dramatically decreased all crime and turned New York City around.

So how does the Broken Window Theory apply to us at Andrews? It all comes down to maintaining and enforcing high standards by prioritizing our "broken windows."

Some examples of such potential "broken windows" are base appearance, uniform and weight standards, customs and courtesies and PT standards.

Show me an organization that maintains high standards in these seemingly minor areas, and I'll show you a high performing organization that does its mission well, has high morale, and takes care of Airmen and their families.

Just as Mayor Giuliani did, we need to "sweat the small stuff," for the small stuff is a window into the soul of an organization, reflecting its professionalism and attention to detail.

Another concept I believe in is "letting the big dogs run." Under this leadership construct, you put great people into key positions, you give them mission-type orders and the resources they need, and then you get out of their way to let them do the job.

I've found such a style achieves better results than directing details from above, as people feel empowered to attack problems in unique ways that are often better than what would have been directed.

As General Patton used to say, "Never tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

Of course, such a leadership style requires leaders to "trust but verify," getting answers to key questions and providing course corrections and encouragement, as necessary. It also requires strict accountability, which is a force multiplier.

When people know they're responsible for success or failure, they'll take ownership of the issue and achieve better results. "Letting the big dogs run" works!

Finally, nothing here at Andrews occurs without teamwork.

Whether it's a Presidential movement, an air show, or simply cleaning up the base, success depends on the strength of our team.

Like many of you, I've been in organizations that "worked and played well with others," and they tended to be positive places that achieved great results with high morale.

I've also been in and even once led an organization that focused so much on its own mission that the broader mission suffered.

I learned my lesson the hard way, and am subsequently committed to working well with all of our sister wings and mission partners.

"Team Andrews" is more than a bumper sticker; it must be a reality.