We present the Torch Award to teams who create collaborative cultures and make significant contributions to DoD innovation.
Awardee: Tesseract (Pentagon – Arlington, Virginia)
Awardee: Bernadette Simmons of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Twenty-first century Airmen are tired of using twentieth-century software tools. Tesseract, the innovation incubator for the Air Force Logistics community, is putting over-complicated, manual spreadsheets out of business.
Founded a few years ago by two officers who completed fellowships at Amazon and Delta Airlines, Tesseract uses a Theory of Constraints approach. Identify what’s constraining a system’s productivity, and focus your efforts there until it isn’t the constraint anymore. Over time, systems improve.
One constraint Tesseract attacked was unit-level scheduling. Every base, sometimes every unit, had its own spreadsheet to schedule personnel. Well-trained Airmen are spending thousands of hours every year managing thousands of tiny spreadsheet cells.
But, times are changing. MSgt Phil Barry and Colin Dziadaszek heard about a project Kessel Run and the 309th Software Engineering Group were working on to modernize personnel scheduling. This is exactly the sort of high-payoff tool they look for–something saving time for lots of Airmen across the force.
Projects like these are born and die in bureaucracies all the time, but this one was different. Phil and DZ went on a roadshow to demonstrate the MVP-version of the tool, hear from potential users, and set up a beta test. People were excited they might be able to give up the spreadsheets their predecessors’ predecessor (or more) had made. Soon, they had about 900 beta testers.
But, then VISION entered the picture. When they posted the project in VISION, it exploded. Right away they started getting messages from across the globe from people looking for (or beginning to build) a scheduling tool. These Airmen were eager to signup for the beta as well. Soon, 900 users grew to 6,000, and now the tool, Torque, has over 20,000 users.
Today Phil continues to use VISION as a harvesting tool. He uses the search function to find logistics-focused initiatives and paves the way for promising ones to enter the Tesseract incubator. Now, savvy Airmen are even tagging Tesseract to get fast visibility.
Cultural change within bureaucracies doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens faster when you make people’s lives better. DZ is a believer, “If we can save Airman time so they could be back with their families then we should. I’m very passionate about helping folks, and when I see an opportunity I take it!” VISION is proud to help connect problems, ideas, and inspirational culture-changers like Phil and DZ.
“We can say ‘innovation’ all day. But when it comes down to it, it’s the culture that supports the innovation.”