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8-Steps of Bright Ideas

Airmen complete a hands-on scenario during an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century course, titled “The 8-Step Problem Solving Method” at RAF Lakenheath, England, June 9. Nine courses have been held since August 2009 and are held monthly to train Airmen on a proper way to tackle difficult problems. (Pictured clockwise from top) Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Moncrief, 48th Communications Squadron assistant NCO in charge of airfield systems; Staff Sgt. Gregory Greer, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief; Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Krumenauer, 48th Force Support Squadron superintendent of manpower and organization; Airman 1st Class Chelsea Nobles, 48th Operations Group intelligence analyst; Staff Sgt. Alejandro Soto, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron quality assurance technician; and Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, 48th Comptroller Squadron NCO in charge of customer support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)

Airmen complete a hands-on scenario during an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century course, titled “The 8-Step Problem Solving Method” at RAF Lakenheath, England, June 9. Nine courses have been held since August 2009 and are held monthly to train Airmen on a proper way to tackle difficult problems. (Pictured clockwise from top) Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Moncrief, 48th Communications Squadron assistant NCO in charge of airfield systems; Staff Sgt. Gregory Greer, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief; Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Krumenauer, 48th Force Support Squadron superintendent of manpower and organization; Airman 1st Class Chelsea Nobles, 48th Operations Group intelligence analyst; Staff Sgt. Alejandro Soto, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron quality assurance technician; and Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, 48th Comptroller Squadron NCO in charge of customer support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- When an Air Force organization is faced with severe manning shortages and an ever-increasing mission, how do they overcome those challenges?

The answer is teamwork and bright ideas. The Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century office here taught 12 Airmen how to utilize the 8-Step Problem Solving Method to work together and find answers to real-world problems they're facing in their organizations.

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The June 9 course taught the Airmen how to work together through eight different steps ranging from "clarify & validate the problem (first step)" to "standardize successful processes (eighth step)." It gives all of the Airmen, regardless of rank or duty title, the opportunity to lead the discussion, work with other Airmen and find answers.

The training, which happens monthly at the AFSO21 office, is a mixture of classroom instruction and hands-on scenarios.

"This training is important for two reasons," said Chief Master Sgt. LaShawn Wilson, 48th Fighter Wing deputy director of the AFSO21 office. "The first reason is it teaches people general problem-solving skills, which helps them develop both professionally and personally, while teaching them how not to solve the same problems over and over. The second is the Secretary of the Air Force's Inspector General Office has directed all units, Air Force wide, to use the eight-step process as a model to answer findings after major inspections such as operational readiness inspections and health service inspections."

One of the students in attendance, Staff Sgt. Gregory Greer, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, already has experience with the problem-solving process, but he still found the training very useful towards understanding how he contributed.

"I helped collect data last year when the maintenance group was conducting a man-hour study," he said. "Every day, for two months, I kept a log of how long it took me to do all of my tasks throughout the day. Now that I've been through the training, I understand how all the data I collected, along with the data from the people I work with, will help the [48th Maintenance Group] with their study."

He went on to say how he'll also be able to take this training back to his unit and find ways to improve local processes there.

"This has been great training that I will definitely use in the future," he said.