Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, October 26, 2012

Professional gathering signals a new approach to professional development

Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

10/26/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Air Mobility Command is taking advantage of a single symposium to take the place of 11 separate conferences that would have otherwise been held throughout the past year.

To get there, officials had to re-imagine how to get the same value out of 4-hour conferences at a single symposium that they had traditionally received by holding several separate full 3- or 4-day conferences.

Officials decided to fully embrace virtual meetings for rudimentary training throughout the year, and bring all the participants together with a 4-hour capstone event at the Airlift Tanker Association annual symposium.

"This is a new approach to the way we come together for professional development," said Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, AMC vice commander. "This gives us a chance to try something new--to try to use technology to help us change the way we think about the number--and cost--of annual conferences we've had in the past."

"We've already had hundreds of Airmen meet online where they have accomplished formal coursework," Allardice said. "When they arrive at the symposium our Airmen will be ready to interact with senior leaders and participate in strategic-level discussions in a way different than in the past."

"We're excited about trying to do things smarter," Allardice said. "And we have a good plan to assess what works and apply lessons learned to make it even better next year."

To that end AMC officials are making a strong push for formal and informal feedback during and after the symposium. Every attendee will be asked for their ideas about what worked and what could be improved.

"We'll continue to refine this approach for the optimal balance of effectiveness and efficiency. We're already seeing some real advantages to this approach," he said.

Over the course of the past year leading up to the capstone symposium, Air Mobility Command worked to spread the activities for those previously separate conferences over several weeks or months each, with tools like video teleconferences and computer-based training taking the place of many traditional meetings.

This year's conference brings together 1,900 Mobility Airmen and industry partners Nov. 1 - 4. But with these across-the-board changes to conferences in AMC, this year's symposium is significantly different, officials said.

"In previous years, the (Aircrew Training /Core Automated Maintenance System) conferences, for instance, would meet for four days all at once at Scott Air Force Base," said Lt. Col. Matt Whiat, director, commander's action group. "This year, they have met by video or audio teleconference throughout the year and now will only require a 4-hour capstone training event, what we have taken to calling 'mini-conferences.' "

Larger concerns within the Defense Department about the cost of big conventions prompted the new approach. In shaping the new approach, AMC officials gave some thought to what would be lost with a condensed conference, officials said. In short, that missing ingredient would be face-to-face interaction, meals and informal activities that naturally occur at longer gatherings which "really provide a critical part of professional development," said Whiat. Professional development does not stop with formal academics and training, he said.

So officials decided that mini-conferences could work if they could also capitalize on the other activities and team-building events like ATA which provide the extra time together that is otherwise lost. "This year's Airlift Tanker Association schedule of events complements professional development and training goals that those 11 full conferences typically provide," Whiat said.

For instance, a crud tournament is planned for the evenings after the formal daily agenda is done. Crud is a modified version of billiards, said Col. Robert Holba, who will act as tournament referee.

"Crud is a game that has a long tradition in the mobility community. Aircrews would play it while awaiting missions during stage operations. It's a good way after duty hours to promote esprit-de-corps among Airmen of all ranks, and to give folks a chance to get to know each other outside the seminar rooms."

The slate of activities offered to Airmen from mornings through after duty hours, gives ATA attendees every opportunity to benefit from coming together as a team, said the general.

"This is one of those rare chances we have to get together as a Mobility Air Force," said Allardice. "And informal face-to-face interaction with retired senior officer and enlisted leaders is critical to professional development. One strength of combining our mini-conferences with the annual ATA symposium is the cross-talk activities that allow for informal mentoring and professional development. We get to take advantage of the large venues to exchange feedback and participate in team building."

"The bottom line is to develop Airmen who are ready to answer the call when someone somewhere needs something, and rapidly provide the conditions so others can prevail," said Allardice.

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