Unity of Effort through effective communication
By Col. Steven J. Butow, Commander, 129th Rescue Wing
/ Published February 10, 2013
MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Effective communication within a military organization is essential to achieving unity of effort. Our greatest successes are attained when we all share awareness of a common objective and work together to achieve them. Whether communications start from the top or the bottom of the organization, it is incumbent on all of us as Airmen to ensure that the message gets to its intended audience in a timely and effective manner. It is frustrating and counterproductive for our Airmen to work with incomplete or erroneous information. For this reason, it is imperative that we all communicate effectively for mission accomplishment.
I consider the following to be standards that all Airmen follow, regardless of rank or position, to achieve unity of effort regardless of our mission:
Words matter. Simple and concise messages are most effective. Avoid jargon and writing styles that dilute the message. Emails and decision briefings should begin with a Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) statement that effectively conveys the message.
The chain of command works both ways. The 129th Rescue Wing is a team operating with a common purpose. As such, the most effective means of communication is achieved through the chain of command. One does not have to agree with the message in order to pass it. Effective leaders promote dialog and should be concerned when met with silence.
The commander must be the first to know. Airmen must never allow the commander to learn something important from a second-hand source. No matter how bad the information may be, it is always best to receive it from a knowledgeable subordinate.
Feedback is a push-pull process. Airmen should be encouraged to offer feedback and also be willing to listen to it. The best ideas usually evolve in the field not the office. Effective communication on a day-to-day basis will improve our ability to work together during crises.
Never assume...Validate! Seek clarification when the message doesn't make sense. In a resource constrained environment, assumptions may result in costly errors or waste of valuable time. The few minutes required to clarify instructions may save hours of unnecessary effort.
Customs and courtesies always. There is no such thing as a stupid question. The 129th Rescue Wing is a learning environment where Airmen are always in upgrade training. Effective communication requires professionalism regardless of rank. Remember that some communications are best delivered in person than by phone or email.
Wingmen Ask. When something doesn't seem right, Airmen must ask. The question may save someone's life.
Today's military can communicate at the speed of light whether in garrison or while deployed half a world away. Effective communication is achieved through people - not tools. Take the extra minute to communicate within your team, and keep leadership informed. Through unity of effort, the Wing can achieve many things and continue to meet the expectations of the public whose trust we hold to get this mission completed safely and successfully every time.