Air Force Materiel Command

Abstract

Air Force Materiel Command (A) & (B) are about the intellectual work that managers do to design and change organizational purposes and practices. They show how organizational practices emerge and evolve, that coalition building is important to the process by which an organization's practices are changed, and that context is important to their persistence and operation. The cases also illustrate effective transformational leadership from the top. The cases take place within the context of the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), a sprawling, horizontally integrated support organization within the U.S. Air Force. During the period of study, AFMC engaged in a sustained effort to apply responsibility budgeting and accounting in a context that was in many ways inimical to implementing this practice. General George T. Babbitt instigated the effort immediately following his assumption of command, astutely tailoring textbook principles taken from the functional discipline of management accounting and control to the institutional and cultural milieu of the AFMC. Throughout his years of service as commander, Babbitt remained faithful to his goal of leaving AFMC much more capable of understanding and managing costs than was the case upon his arrival. Air Force Materiel Command A focuses on Babbitt's diagnosis of the issues confronting AFMC. Air Force Materiel Command B focuses on the actions taken to fix things, not merely transforming rules and routines involving expenditure planning and financial management, but building capacity as well.

These cases have been taught successfully in workshops for senior and mid-level managers and in graduate-level public management courses to both MBA and MPA students. In workshop settings concerned with strategy and leadership, both (A) and (B) have been taught using an entire afternoon (four hours). In graduate level organizational design and financial management courses they have been taught over two class sessions, the first focusing on problem recognition and diagnosis (A) and the second on improvising a solution (B), usually near the end of the course.

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