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Non-correlation in metrics can actually mean something

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – For almost three years now, our squadron has been working on our processes and how to track how well our processes work.  Better known as metrics. 

One process I determined was vital for our mobility shop arose from the nature of how we deploy in the 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons.  We are required to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Typically, our squadrons deploy two to three crews every two weeks.  With this many deployments, it would be nice to have a little flexibility to move a deployer to an earlier line if someone falls out. 

To give ourselves this flexibility, we decided to require deployers to be ready for their scheduled deployment two weeks early.  This became the metric we were determined to track and see how often we were meeting this goal.  The crews are required to attend, 30 days out, a meeting with the mobility shop to go through their mobility folders and determine what they need to have accomplished to be ready for their deployment. 

I had hoped to see a correlation between increased attendances at the 30 day-out meeting and the number of people ready on time, two weeks out.

After showing these stats during staff meetings for months, we never really observed the correlation that we expected.  Some weeks, there was high attendance at the 30 day-out meeting, but low completion two weeks out, and other weeks the complete opposite. 

We began to lose faith that these were helpful metrics. I tried defending my metrics, but the more I couldn’t bring about a correlation the more I started wondering myself, “Why were we even tracking it?” 

Before we decided to cut out the metric, our director of operations spoke up with a bit of insight we had all missed.  He told us that the non-correlation actually meant something.  To him, the metrics not showing higher numbers of attendees at the 30 day-out meeting produces higher numbers of members ready on-time actually meant that the issue was internal to the process we had in mobility. 

This led us to change the process, adding more responsibility on the members by signing a document of understanding detailing exactly what they are required to accomplish and that they sign the document next to the date when they are required to be finished. 

Those who are not ready by the two-weeks-out-mark must then answer to the director of operations along with their aircraft commander.  This closes the loop and adds a level of accountability to the process that we were lacking previously.