Commentary by Air Force Col. Michael Grismer
3rd Wing vice commander
3/14/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Culture
is the most important indicator for success or failure in any
organization. It's no accident Apple's innovative culture of excellence
is as distinctive as their products are revolutionary. Apple's culture
is evident in every aspect of the company - it drives their success.
You've seen the impact of culture firsthand. Think of the last Southwest
Airlines flight you flew on. You also know the few, the proud, the U.S.
Marines. Their culture is so strong it glues them together and provokes
a sense of pride, which makes them unparalleled in adapting and
overcoming any adversity.
Consider also Zappos, one of the fastest companies to reach $1 billion
in sales. They are an organization fueled by a diverse culture, which is
inclusive, encouraging, and empowering. Their CEO clearly values
culture over strategy, personally indoctrinates new hires on company
culture, and offers employees several thousand dollars to quit anytime
they feel the Zappos culture is not a fit for them.
Yes our Air Force culture is just as important to our success and to our
future relevance for America. Contemplate the culture in your unit. Do
the attitudes, beliefs, and actions result in sustained excellence, high
team morale marked by dignity and respect for teammates, strong
internal communication, and an acceptance of a risk to achieve fresh
If not, ask the person in the mirror, "why not"? Our Air Force -
including both civilians and blue-suit Airmen - is accountable to
strengthen a vibrant culture and increase our legacy of excellence for
the greatest Air Force in the world. Getting culture right takes hard
work and true commitment. Following are a few basics to reflect on.
Engaged leadership: Positive culture is fueled by
leaders at every level who are passionately engaged and living it by
example. They are enthusiastic communicators and motivators who set a
clear vision, mission, values and goals while they create the
environment for them to flourish. Engaged leaders also empower every
Airman to be a leader by innovating and leading positive change in any
processes, program or person they touch.
Live Our Core Values: To firmly embed Air Force core
values into our culture, we must empower our people and ensure everyone
understands exactly what is expected of them. "Integrity First" forms
the basis for trust and confidence in our Air Force. Without it, we will
fail. "Service Before Self" and "Excellence in All We Do" are both
values, which must be firmly embedded in our culture. Strong cultures
empower people by identifying their talents, and deliberately mentoring
them to reach their full potential. These cultures also convey a clear
role of personal and professional responsibilities their people are
Establish a culture of discipline and respect for human dignity:
Good order and discipline are prerequisites for creating an environment
where everyone is recognized for the value they bring to the team, and
they are treated with the dignity, respect, and kindness all wingmen
deserve. Practically speaking, this begins with eliminating any coarse
or offensive talk, which has the potential to quickly turn toxic.
Swearing and sexually or racially explicit innuendos have no place in
any professional organization. Unprofessional behavior, even the
perception of unprofessional behavior, cannot be tolerated. We must
never forget the honor and privilege it is to wear the uniform and to be
held to a higher standard.
As Airmen, we have a duty to get our culture right. If we fail in this
regard, we will no longer attract America's finest sons and daughters to
join our ranks.
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character; it drives the culture in your unit and in your home.
If each of us does our part, we will instill a winning culture - one
which makes Airmen love their work, and reflects their inspiration
through mission excellence. Our long-term success is dependent on
sustaining a culture alive and relevant for an ever-changing world. What
legacy of excellence will