Senior Leadership Commitment to Continuous Process Improvement for a Culture Change: A Case Study of a U.S. Air Force Organization




Ortiz, Sandra Melaine

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The United States Air Force has been attempting to create a culture of process improvement since 1987. Several studies have claimed that a culture change cannot occur without senior leadership commitment. This research study takes an Air Force organization whose senior leaders are committed to continuous process improvement and surveys the personnel under this leadership to determine if a culture change has occurred.

To appreciate the struggle the Air Force has been through trying to create this culture of process improvement, the past must be understood. Therefore, this study includes a review of the history of process improvement within the Air Force. Since senior leader commitment to continuous process improvement is required, a review of senior leader current exposure, training, and requirements is included.

To determine if a culture change has occurred within the select organization, a voluntary survey was conducted. The online survey development cloud-based software SurveyMonkey was used to collect the data, and the statistics software package Minitab was used to analyze responses. The survey included personal condition questions on how long the respondent has been working in the Air Force, the type of position held by the respondent, and the respondent's exposure to previous Air Force process improvement initiatives as well as the respondent's opinion of Continuous Process Improvement (CPI). The responses to the personal condition questions were the predictors in the Analysis of Variation (ANOVA) methods of analyses conducted on the data collected.

This study concluded that while leadership commitment is necessary, it is not sufficient to accomplish a true culture change. Even though senior leaders of this organization are committed to CPI, less than fifty percent of survey respondents indicated a commitment to CPI. Additionally, respondents who were very familiar with previous Air Force process improvement initiatives were more likely to be committed to the current CPI, while respondents in Wage Grade (i.e. blue collar) positions were more likely to feel either forced to use CPI or that it is a waste of time.


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AFSO21, Air Force, Continuous Process Improvement



Mechanical Engineering