I recently had the privilege of attending the Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC) 'Air Force Trophy' Parade at the RAAF Base in Richmond, New South Wales (NSW).
How does my attendance at such an event have anything to do with business communication skills? Read on to find out…
Over 500 cadets from around NSW presented a stunning display, all marching with precision as they moved flawlessly from one drill to the next.
The question that sprang to mind was: How was this possible after only one morning in which to practice together?
I believe the answers to this question lie at the very heart of the success of the AAFC and are relevant to any business or organisation.
Firstly, the AAFC is highly structured, with clearly defined roles and procedures. Because roles are clearly defined all cadets, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty, and all members of staff know not only their role, but also how they relate to each other. This translates to the smooth operation of local squadrons and larger events, such as the Trophy Parade, when cadets from different squadrons come together.
How clearly are roles defined in your organisation and how well are those roles understood by all members?
Secondly, structure is reinforced by procedure. This enables effective communication and delegation as everyone knows not only their own role but that of everyone else. They know who is responsible for each task and who to turn to if assistance is needed.
If a cadet or staff member responsible for a procedure is absent, others can take over because there is a process to follow. There is a defined chain of responsibility and there are protocols to follow.
How strong are the procedures in your organisation? How closely are they followed? If someone is absent, how effectively can others take over their tasks?
The third key to the success of the AAFC is teamwork. This is more than structure, procedure and the setting of a high standard for cadets and staff alike, regardless of rank. All cadets learn that they are a vital part of their squadron. They learn that their actions directly affect those around them.
For activities to run smoothly, they need to be able to rely on each other and they, as individuals, need to be reliable, be it marching in the final parade for the year or keeping the fire burning throughout the night when on bivouac (a temporary camp without tents or cover).
More experienced cadets keep an eye on newer recruits, explaining procedures, keeping morale up when camping if the weather turns bad, and keeping an eye on their general well-being. If a cadet at any level is seen to be struggling they will be given help, and, because everyone knows their role and there are procedures, that help can be given quickly.
Effort and achievement are acknowledged and valued in a way that highlights the individual but also the team, thus reinforcing the sense of camaraderie and importance of working together.
Do all members of your organisation feel they are an important part of the team?
The AAFC is about more than structure and procedure. Structure and procedure would not attract thousands of young people of both sexes from around Australia to join an organisation.
However, it is that structure and procedure that enables them to have wonderful experiences such as flying planes, learning fieldcraft, making new friends, and of course, coming together with hundreds of other cadets to put on displays such as that I saw in Richmond. While having fun and learning, they also see that structure and procedure help with communication and actually facilitate a greater sense of direction, purpose and belonging.
While the AAFC is an organisation catering for youth, it has many features pertinent to all businesses and organisations.
Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Bros