The importance of self-assessment

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mario DeSanctis
  • 28th Medical Support Squadron commander
Thus far in my Air Force career I’ve learned that the key to unit success is ensuring that a complete job risk assessment (unit self-assessment) is accomplished to achieve full compliance with the Air Force Inspector General, and as necessary, civilian job standards.

The benefits for completing a unit self-inspection are two-fold -- it helps the member, and it helps the overall unit. Automated tools are available for accomplishing this self-assessment.

The benefit to the member is it helps him immediately understand what’s required by his job.

By taking the IG checklist and carefully reviewing each requirement, the commander and member can readily see what needs to be accomplished to meet that particular job element.

If it’s still unclear, they can seek guidance from another staff member more experienced with that element, or even consult higher headquarters.

They can also see where the reference is in the Air Force Instruction, for example, on the origin or source of the requirement.

This careful review of checklist elements can serve as a good learning tool on what a particular position entails.

The member can then self-assess the section’s compliance with each element to determine if improvement is needed (a gap analysis), and if so, what needs to be done to ensure compliance.

If there are gaps in achieving full compliance, then an estimated completion date should be established in order to set a timeline and target for full compliance. This self-assessment should be taken seriously, with a hard look given to compliance.

Honesty on the part of the member is extremely important here, otherwise a true picture of compliance may not be given to an element, and an inspector could write it up as non-compliant.

I’ve learned it’s better to be more stringent on proof of compliance for an element than to be lenient and take your chances on whether the item will be given a “met standard” score. The self-assessment also helps the member keep track of their compliance progress and process improvements. It also helps set work priorities and section goals.

The second benefit for completing a unit self-assessment is that it helps give the commander and the unit an overall picture of where they stand in meeting the IG standards to ensure they can pass a particular inspection. There’s nothing worse than for a commander, section officer in charge, or NCO in charge to be “surprised” a particular area isn’t meeting standards during an inspection.

By completing an honest self-assessment, a commander and section can readily know where a program stands, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and what needs to be improved in order to meet IG or civilian compliance standards.

There are automated tools available that can help the member complete a unit self-assessment. Some unit self-assessment tools can be locally developed by using Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access. Others have been mandated for use such as MedFacts, a Web-based system for compiling and measuring medical treatment facility compliance with the Health Services Inspection criteria outlined by the Air Force Inspection Agency.

Regardless of which tool is used, a self-assessment has proven to be critical to ensuring unit compliance with Air Force standards. HSI criteria state that a new OIC or NCOIC should complete a unit self-assessment within 60 days upon arrival into a new position.

For medical personnel, this is a requirement that should be strictly adhered to so the unit and member can immediately establish a baseline for achieving success in meeting mission requirements. Other units can establish their own guidelines and time intervals to ensure self-assessments are done and reviewed by unit leadership to measure progress.

My personal experience as a member of medical command level staff assistance teams has revealed that units with strong self-assessment programs and evidence of leadership review inevitably scored well during unit Air Force inspections.