Putting excellence back in “good enough for government work”

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
In today's culture the phrase, "good enough for government work" means a task was completed to the minimum standard. For example, you take your physical fitness test and only meet the minimum requirements to pass, it could be considered "good enough for government work."

Has this phrase always meant the lowest passing quality? The answer is no.

In a commentary by retired Maj. Gen. Arthur Rooney, he states, "The phrase, 'It's good enough for government work' originated in World War II. It was during a time when the likes of 'Rosie the Riveter' were made famous as we worked hard to provide our allies and our very own soldiers the ships, planes and weapons to fight and win the war against the Axis powers."

When the phrase was used during this period in time, it meant it was good enough to pass very stringent standards, Rooney said. It also meant it was good enough to be used by your son, father or loved one in our country's fight against the enemy. While the meaning of this phrase may have changed, one thing remains the same -- we are at war now.

How do we begin putting excellence back in "good enough for government work"?

Look no further than our own core values - the same values that were instilled in us in basic training.

The core value I think of in particular is "excellence in all we do" - not excellence in as much as we "want" to do. We owe it to every person in every branch of service to give our absolute best in everything we do.

I believe the best way to put excellence back into government work is by first looking at processes we follow daily and learning how we can make them more efficient using innovative ideas to change how we operate.

You don't have to take this first step alone. Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, known as AFSO 21, is here to help you improve your daily processes saving you time and increasing the quality of our work.

AFSO 21's core mission is to improve the quality of life for Airmen, said Sean London, 97th Air Mobility Wing AFSO 21 chief base transformation manager. Objectivity, continuous process improvement and disciplined approach to problem solving - with those three things the natural byproduct is time given back to the Airman, which will give them more time to complete their work thus enhancing the quality. Any time we can give time back to people in the workforce, other byproducts occur, which are quality increases and the ability to take on more work.

Constant process improvement is achievable by any member of the workforce. All it takes is some time and effort.

"We must constantly be looking for ways to improve the process and not be satisfied with the status quo," Rooney said in his commentary. "There is no better time than the present for each of us to do our part to return the meaning of the phrase, 'It is good enough for government work,' our brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsman deserve nothing less than the best."