Yehundi Menuhin, a classical violinist, said, “Only satisfaction and lack of desire will limit your improvement and ultimate perfection.” From my perspective, this quote defines what a professional is—one who conducts an after action review (AAR) to assess how his or her day, project, or even life went … and how to improve. Not someone who is content to rest on his or her laurels. Or hope that good enough this time will be enough for the next project.
The best unit I was honored to serve with followed this process relentlessly. No, we initially didn’t like to admit that we had made mistakes or could have done something better. But ever so slowly, by taking the time to assess our major operations and finding at least one way to improve, we began to get better and better at providing support to our customers. Until our unit was noted as being the best out of twelve in a major command.
In fact, we realized that we needed to record our lessons learned in writing, due to the high turnover rate we had with the overseas assignment policy. In turn, we created a standard operating procedures (SOP), and each time we conducted an AAR, we reviewed the SOP. The assigned AAR note taker would compare our most recent lessons learned after an operation to the SOP and update the SOP, then notify our unit of the changes to be implemented the next time.
A mentor’s advice emphasized this point to me as a young officer when he said, “Make your duty station and your assignment better than when you arrived.” This requires investing yourself—or said another way, leaving “part” of yourself at a location when you leave.
I observed that some “just showed up to work,” day in and day out. No passion. No desire to make things better for those who would come after them. They had a short term view—it’s only about me and my success. Often, they would only put a band-aid on the problem, hoping that that would take care of the issue long enough until they left and the next person had to deal with the root of the problem. Thus, they kicked the can down the road.
Yet, how do you know how to do your job when you’re brand new? Next time we’ll look at one technique, which at least, will help those who follow you and could help you.