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Need success? Go to your bench

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Anticipation is building around here as playoff time in the NBA approaches. The Oklahoma City Thunder has had a great year and is poised to make a deep run in the playoffs. It's amazing to look back at how far this team has come since they first arrived in Oklahoma City. Lots of variables have contributed to their rapid ascent to the elite level of the league: great players, shrewd talent evaluation, supportive ownership and great fans to name a few. However, one factor that gets overlooked is the great job they've done at building depth, developing it and using it to supplement their starters. Building a strong bench has been a conscious strategy by this franchise and has helped them to get through challenges such as injuries and a compressed schedule this year.

Likewise, building a strong bench is important for us as we as we strive to support the war fighters and adapt to an environment of shrinking fiscal resources, organizational restructuring and loss of experienced personnel. In particular, the loss of experienced personnel has the potential of having a major negative impact across the DOD and here at Tinker as well. In the current environment we are experiencing a brain and experience drain we haven't witnessed in several years. One way to mitigate this loss of expertise and keep the mission going is to build a strong bench within your own organization.

It's always tempting to rely on your superstars or those most experienced employees for all the high visibility, important tasks. Using the same personnel as your "go-to person" might get the job done in the short term but can have long term negative consequences. If we keep leaning on the same people all the time, when they are gone, we will be faced with a real problem of a weak bench and a significant drop-off in production. However, by giving all our people opportunities to lead and take on important tasks, we're building the experience we need. They'll be available to come off the bench and fill in as needed. As they gain experience and confidence, they'll eventually be able to replace your "starters" on a regular basis, without any degradation to the mission. Your bench players will also appreciate your confidence in them and stay motivated because they realize they can be put be into the game at any time with the expectation of making a contribution.

If you think about it, we were all at one time or another on the bench, playing behind the starters. At some point we were put in the game and expected to contribute. In my case, I always felt prepared because my bosses had been preparing me for those challenges by feeding me opportunities and building up my confidence and capabilities, through training, experience and great feedback.

I knew I would be called upon and I was ready when called. When my time as a "starter" came, I was ready because my bench time had been valued and my contributions appreciated. As we go through the significant changes we are experiencing, it would be wise to keep in mind the value of a strong bench and make a conscious decision to develop the talent waiting there.