Commentary by Lt. Col. Robert Pavelko
21st Space Operations Squadron Commander
Recent sporting events reminded me of the importance of follow-through to guarantee results. Whether it was a golf swing at the British Open, a tennis swing at Wimbledon, or an at-bat in a baseball game; good form and follow-through are needed to achieve results. Each athlete practiced countless hours to perfect their swing to include the follow-through. Golf has many shots; driving off the tee, laying up in front of a water hazard, or sinking a short putt; each particular shot requires a specific approach, but all require a good follow-through. Similar circumstances are present in tennis and baseball, specific situations require different approaches. None are executed properly without correct follow-through.
Follow-through has an equally important place in our mission execution every day. Whether it is satellite operations, personnel actions, finance transactions, or response to a security incident; each requires proper and consistent follow-through to guarantee results.
What would happen if actions taken during shift were not documented and briefed to the relief crew? Would a promotion raise take effect if proper information was not entered into the Defense Finance and Accounting System? Any of these examples, and many more, would fail to be executed properly if the actions were not completed with correct follow-through.
Communication is the critical bedrock in any endeavor, relying on the basic premise that individuals both receive and understand a message. Without an acknowledgement of receiving the communication and feedback, does the sender know the receiver perceived the instructions correctly?
In our day-to-day operations, communication is essential to guarantee mission success. Communication and management in daily activities has focused on the ever-insular e-mail to transmit information. An e-mail sent does not equate to the message being received, much less read, understood, or acted upon. Far too many times, technical issues cause information to not be received. Once received, does the recipient understand the message and intent? Follow-through is needed to verify the message has been received.
Communication can be an impersonal exchange, such as reading this article. There is no instant feedback from the reader. Communication in person provides ample opportunity to ensure messages have been received. Phone calls assist with real-time exchange, but are not always feasible. E-mail and instant messaging have accelerated the pace of exchange, but not necessarily our understanding of the communication.
So how do we ensure everyone understands the message? Each of us must practice proper follow-through and not presume “fire and forget” applies to communication. Action is required by both parties. Feedback completes the communication loop ensuring parties understand the intent. Proper follow-through by both the sender and receiver increases good communication.
Communication goes both up and down the chain of command, conveying critical information and providing direction. A commander issuing an order does not know if the intent is understood unless we relay acknowledgment and our comprehension of the message. Each message, no matter how small, is an opportunity to provide accurate follow-through to assist successful communication and ultimately affect action. Every message, no matter how trivial or innocuous, is critical to keep your unit operating at peak efficiency.
Similar to those household names on the professional golf tour and in major league baseball, practicing follow-through is critical. Communication is the responsibility of both sender and receiver — both must practice good follow-through. Refrain from going “comm out;” acknowledge every message and convey feedback each time. Strive to be a good communicator with outstanding follow-through and it will ultimately ensure mission accomplishment.