News | May 27, 2016

Aviation Leader Commentary: APEx model enhances DLA Aviation process design

By Christopher Basden DLA Aviation at Richmond

Defense Logistics Agency Aviation is continuing its journey building a process excellence culture using a new DLA Aviation Process Excellence methodology known as APEx. APEx strengthens our ties to the DLA director’s process excellence vision by implementing process management methodologies that enhance the way we manage, evaluate, refine, and communicate process design.

The goal is simple - enhance warfighter support and ensure every member of the organization knows if they are having a good day. Knowing how well we are doing helps us identify gaps and focus on internal process improvements that have the greatest impacts on warfighter support.

What does it mean to know if you had a good day and how will we communicate this? We will know through metrics and Tiered Communication.

Metrics indicate performance over time. In order to know how we are doing, we must objectively measure performance against stated goals. The APEx model uses current metrics in a way that gives employees ownership over their processes and provides regular updates to them. To be useful, metrics must be frequently tracked, reviewed, and discussed at the appropriate levels through a method known as Tiered Communication.

Tiered Communication is DLA Aviation’s link between measuring performance and providing the information at the most appropriate levels. This does not mean adding a lot of new meetings. Rather, we will use current staff meetings to include pertinent metric reviews with counterpart organizations (horizontal) and higher-level leadership and process owners (vertical).

APEx includes a bottom-to-top Tiered Communication plan to aid teams at all levels in regularly reviewing performance. It enhances decision-making ability at the lower levels and help units receive process- and performance-related feedback from higher levels. It also helps upper management see where decisions and events had impacts upon performance that need to be communicated across the organization. The horizontal and vertical use of Tiered Communication empowers every work unit to make decisions that best fit their needs and ability to support the warfighter.

How do we plan to build APEx into a successful process management system? We begin by educating the workforce.

Senior leaders across the organization will soon participate in the Senior Process Excellence Course. This two-day course guides leaders in the management theories and science used in the APEx structure. This first phase of training engages senior leaders in using APEx tools such as: the Leadership Model, Execution Model for Setting Road To Goals, Battle Rhythm Planning for Tiered Communication, and Constraint Resolution.

To ensure involvement throughout the activity, each DLA Aviation directorate will select an individual to join the APEx Transformation Team. This team will consist of personnel in each directorate who will oversee their organizations maturity in APEx, train and work with employees and managers within their directorate, and provide the communication link between directorates on process excellence related topics.

Training is being developed for employees and supervisors at all organizational levels. Courses will be delivered in a phased approach using formal and in-formal training methods. Aviation Process Excellence training will be designed to provide employees and supervisors with more detailed information about the APEx construct, methodologies and tools.

A key tenant of the APEx construct is providing tools, from day one, to help employees and managers hit the ground running. During an April town hall, DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day unveiled the DLA Aviation Leadership Model, laying the foundation of APEx. Soon, managers and employees will receive training on the Execution Model, a tool that any member of the organization can use to set process or program goals and determine the detailed path to achieve those goals. Also included will be Production Science - a set of mathematical tools designed to gate processes, reduce work-in-progress, and increase throughput.

APEx is a long-term system of improving the way we do business. To better support the warfighter, we must look at how our processes work and how we can improve them. We are being very intentional with APEx implementation, and while it will take time to mature, the first phases of the rollout will allow us to put these tools into the hands of every DLA Aviation employee - into your hands, so that we can sustain process excellence in  everything we do.

Editor’s Note:  DLA Aviation Process Excellence, APEx, is modeled after the highly successful Air Force Sustainment Center’s construct known as Art of the Possible. APEx models include the leadership model and execution model. Production Science; and Tiered Communication are modeled after the Art of the Possible and private sector models.