Success is never final

  • Published
  • By by Lt. Col. Mike Snell
  • 509th Weapons Squadron commander
In Air Force weapons school presentations, I have seen the same quote many times "Success is Never Final" - Winston Churchill. I looked this quote up and found it to be a segment of a longer quote, that actually reads "Success in not final." The poetic license does not lessen the meaning, and the quote's truth has never escaped me.

This is increasingly true in the information-driven, hyper-competitive global environment we find ourselves in today, that is characterized by ever shortening innovation cycles. While consistency undoubtedly has its own virtue, so does flexibility and adaptability, which people often find difficult. However, consistently finding new and better ways to achieve a competitive edge keeps our military at the forefront. This is the challenge we face.

The world does not stand still. If it did, we'd still be using the same benchmarks and practices set in 1947. If you experienced a headquarters level inspection in you work section recently, you're among the majority of host and tenant units at Fairchild. Although your section did well, it doesn't mean you're finished. The enduring challenge is to consolidate the improvements already made and anticipate the future improvements that will be required to accomplish the mission, especially in the face of continuous deployments and manning challenges.

One of our asymmetric advantages is the competence and professionalism of our Airman and NCO corps. Without it the Air Force could not be the world's premier air, space and cyberspace force. The Air Force places a tremendous amount of responsibility and trust in its enlisted force, and it is truly the envy of our adversaries.

There is a tremendous amount of knowledge and creativity you bring to the fight, however the best ideas can never fully bloom in isolation. You must be mindful of the common goal, know your team and understand your teammate's roles and strengths in order be successful. As is true of many things in life, solid communication at all levels is key to making it work. Realistically, you may only own your project or task for a few weeks or months before handing it off to someone else. It is in these frequent handoffs that the details inevitably get dropped, the vision gets blurred, the cohesive enthusiasm wanes and the mission fails.

Consistent excellence is not a one time achievement or destination, it is a philosophy that influences everyday actions. It's the sum of small efforts, attention to detail and dogged determination. It's the knowledge that only perfect practice makes perfect, and that in reality perfection is fleeting.

Consider the following axioms when contemplating the future of your programs: know your mission and your no-fail areas; keep it as simple as possible; create an environment where your subordinates can thrive and use their creativity; be compassionate, but never compromise standards; know and dedicate yourself to your team; take ownership of everything that happens, good and bad; be sure to celebrate success; and always look for ways to improve.

As we take stock of where we are on the eve of the holiday season, it is worth pausing to reflect on where we've been over the last twelve months, and where we envision ourselves in the next year. It's been a long year and we've worked hard. Take some time to reconnect with family and loved ones. Take pride in what you and your teammates have accomplished and look forward to what is yet possible. Today's success owes us nothing tomorrow.