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The Management Internal Control Toolset: Take a closer look at the program that is helping AFRC improve compliance, productivity, efficiency and communication
(Left to right) Frank Valerio, Bryan Walde, Thomas Noel and Jerry Harrison work development and customer support issues for the Management Internal Control Toolset in the inspector general’s office at Air Force Reserve Command headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
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The Management Internal Control Toolset: Take a closer at the program that is helping AFRC improve compliance, productivity, efficiency and communication

Posted 1/23/2012   Updated 1/23/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Maj. Heather Morgenstern
Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command


1/23/2012 - Citizen Airman/Feb. 2012 -- In 2009, Air Force Reserve Command implemented an automated program designed to give people a way to manage the organization's valuable resources more efficiently. Since that time, use of the Management Internal Control Toolset has grown tremendously as it has continuously developed. And there are some big changes for the program on the horizon.

MICT assists organizations in their quest to boost unit health and performance by improving compliance, productivity, efficiency and communication. The information in MICT assists leaders with fact-based resource allocation and decision-making by identifying process problems and shortfalls in recorded deficiencies.

Using MICT to identify where subordinates are making positive changes by resolving deficiencies they identify themselves can be a valuable tool for leadership. But leaders must embrace the responsibility for creating a "culture of compliance" at their unit.

"A key component for fitting unit self-assessment into the greater Air Force goal of continuous improvement and 'smart operations' is fostering a culture of compliance throughout all levels of the enterprise," said Lt. Col. Lisa Craig, self-inspection program functional manager in Air Force Reserve Command's inspector general office. "Most units are fully embracing this cultural shift, opening their books and sharing information across
the spectrum."

In order for MICT to produce meaningful information for leadership, those people who are responsible for administering checklists must answer compliance questions honestly, Craig said. Self-identification and resolution of deficiencies should be rewarded by leadership.
The goal is for assessors to answer questions honestly and accurately, without fear of punishment for finding a deficiency.

"Gone are the days of fearing the wrist-slapping IG or hiding deficiencies in order to get a good 'score' on an inspection," Craig said. "Units now focus on self-identifying deficiencies, applying the right resources and corrective actions, and focusing on mission accomplishment. Inspections can move to validate unit-identified findings and mission successes."

It is important for units to understand that AFRC inspectors do not have access to the information in MICT, unless they are given access by unit leadership. Craig said it is the IG's intent that formal compliance inspectors conduct an independent assessment of a unit. Seeing a self-assessment may taint an inspector's evaluation.

In addition, units have the option of allowing outsiders access to their self-inspection information.

One of the changes on the way for MICT involves virtual inspections. This involves conducting parts of an inspection using online tools, without having to physically go to the unit being inspected. Craig said virtual inspections could reduce the overall inspection footprint if supporting documentation is captured while conducting a self-inspection.

Inspectors can use MICT to determine compliance by reviewing documentation or proof of compliance associated with specific checklist items. For example, if a checklist item asks if quarterly meetings were held on a particular topic, the checklist assessor could attach or link the dated and signed meeting minutes to the checklist item.

Virtual inspections were initially tested during the May 2011 compliance inspection event at the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and further refined during the October comprehensive unit inspection at the 482nd Fighter Wing, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.

Inspectors conducting a virtual inspection are only able to see the documents that are provided for their review. They do not see if units assess themselves as compliant, nor do they see any related deficiency information in MICT. Inspectors only see the supporting documents, enabling a determination of compliance independently.

Brig. Gen. Derek Rydholm, AFRC inspector general, said he expects virtual inspections to be a win-win for the unit and the IG.

"With limited resources and increased expectations, managing the work load at the unit level is more challenging than ever," said Rydholm, who in mid-February is scheduled to become director of air, space and information operations at AFRC headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "We are sensitive to this issue and looked for better ways to conduct our inspections when we realized the impact they were having on our units. Therefore, we set about to evolve our program, looking for ways to inspect in a less obstructive manner that will benefit both the unit and the inspectors.

"Because of the virtual work that can now be done in the days prior to our arrival, an inspector's time with that unit can be more focused and efficient, the goal being less boots-on-ground time."

The AFRC IG office is seeing units use MICT in other ways to foster a culture of compliance. For example, one wing is using a deficiency report pulled from MICT to conduct a regular wing-level status of deficiencies meeting. Wing functional program owners and squadron commanders attend and are held accountable for the status of deficiency closure.

"Our total force and associated unit structure was devised to capitalize on efficiencies," Craig said. "Through its inherent information-sharing capabilities, MICT gives these units and commanders one more tool in their toolbox to cooperate and make the most of these relationships."

In another example of finding innovative ways to use MICT, several units are using the system as an electronic continuity book. The ability to load or link documents to checklist items allows users the flexibility to put as much supporting documentation into the tool as they want. The result can be a thorough description of activities where a newly assigned
Airman conducting a checklist assessment can find all the background he needs to start running a program in the tool. One unit that is doing this is the 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls International Airport Air Reserve Station, N.Y.

A third example involves the 944th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Ariz., where process managers are using MICT to conduct Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century events on deficiencies. A complex deficiency is an ideal topic for an AFSO21 event. Process managers are uniquely equipped to identify deficiencies, as they are the compliance and AFSO21 subject matter experts at their organization.

The AFRC inspector general ensures units that need MICT training receive it.

"We provide administrator training at Robins AFB every month, and we also send our trainers out into the field on a regular basis," said Lt. Col. Rebecca Groover, MICT customer support director. "They train the unit administrators, who are then expected to train the rest of their folks. Since we are such a small team, this 'train the trainer' concept allows us to efficiently and effectively train the field with minimal resources."

In addition to the monthly MICT unit administrator classes, the IG just added functional checklist manager training. This training is done once a month, also at Robins AFB. The new classes teach checklist owners how to load and manage checklists in MICT.
Individuals can sign up for the training sessions at the MICT customer support community of practice site at https://afkm.wpafb.af.mil /community/views /home.aspx?Filter=25432. Training materials are also available on the site.

In addition to the new training, there are a few other new, high-interest items happening with the AFRC MICT program. MICT is currently shifting its focus from the unit-level user to the functional checklist manager community in an effort to bring that community into the tool.

"The next major MICT release is focused around features that make it easier for all Headquarters Air Force- and major command-level checklist managers to maintain checklists, with the least amount of impact to the unit-level user," said Aaron Carta, MICT software architect. "These improvements include reducing checklist and question redundancy, support for long-term trending, and allowing functionals to monitor the unit's self-assessment of their programs. We are also upgrading to new web technologies that will allow us to keep our current easy-to-use design, while dramatically improving the performance and usability of the MICT interface."

Some big changes are occurring with ownership of MICT. The AFRC MICT program will be transitioning to an Air Force MICT program throughout fiscal year 2012. AFRC, Air Force Materiel Command and the Air Force Inspection Agency are working closely together to transition the program to the Air Force level. Once the transition occurs, AFIA will represent the user requirements as the lead command for the program, and AFMC will conduct program management.

"Eventually AFRC will have a seat at the MICT requirements table just like every other MAJCOM," Rydholm said. "The AFRC MICT representative will collect and prioritize the command's MICT requirements to present at the Air Force level for consideration. It will be a big switch for us, but that is how an Air Force-level program should be run."

(Morgenstern is MICT program manager in the inspector general's office at HQ AFRC.)



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