Most squadrons across the US Air Force have what’s called a DO: the director of operations.  This person is usually a senior Captain or Major by rank, and reports directly to the Commander, often a Lieutenant Colonel.

In well-functioning organizations the DO acts as a catalyst to ensure the execution of various operations: that is, that each individual flight within the squadron understands the commander’s intent and has the resources available to implement actions which will carry out the intent.  The DO is merely a lifeline, or a conduit of the Commander: the DO ensures that leaders at all levels of the squadron have what they need to accomplish their mission, and that they are able to accomplish their mission, on behalf of the commander.  He’s the guy (or gal) who can check up on operations without creating a feeling of invasiveness.  A low-threat sanity check, if you will.

With that being said, I’ve seen too many DO’s get misused in their roles.  The primary manner in which DO’s get mis-employed is twofold: first, they are tasked to micromanage the rest of the squadron.  Second, they are used as program managers: gophers charged with carrying out whatever special side-project the Commander has on his mind.

Each squadron is made up of anywhere from two to five flights on average.  Each flight has a flight commander assigned, usually a Captain.  Within each flight are about three or four sections, each led by a Lieutenant or Senior Non-Commissioned Officer.  When the DO gets too active in the activities of a particular flight or section–that is, when the DO not only observes, but begins to act, in the stead of flight or section leaders, the DO has overstepped his bounds: he is now a micromanager.

Another DO employment found in flailing squadrons is that of program manager.  I saw this a lot when I was acting as the executive officer in various units: the DO would get tasked by the Commander to look into the parking plans (!) or to plan morale-building activities, for example.  This is a task that should be delegated to an innovative and willing member of the squadron who volunteers, as it is a mere side-project for the squadron.

While these examples apply directly to the military, equal parallels can be drawn into the private and civilian sectors, where the CEO or Operations Manager gets used most-often as the enforcer of policy or, again, as a side-project manager.  Enforcement of policy is already carried out by the various levels of middle- and higher management…having a tertiary enforcer of policy and operations is red tape…a superfluous layer of follow-up employed by the leadership out of fear.  It suggests that we don’t trust the leaders we’ve put in-place at various levels to enforce and follow-up on the various tasks our company performs.

We’ve got to ensure that our human resources are employed not only correctly, but optimally as well.  By treating a Director of Operations or Operations Manager as an additional layer of policy enforcement, or even as a project manager, we effectively waste one of the most valuable positions of our organization’s manpower.

Sharing is Caring!