'The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, un-learn and re-learn.'
Alvin Toffler, Writer
What can we do as an organisation to both simplify our work processes and allow more time for training? The basic answer is to cut the administrative fluff. Luckily for the modern Australian soldier, technology has made that easier than ever. So why are we still wasting hours on administrative tasks that should be taking minutes?
It would seem that some parts of the Army are forgetting to un-learn before re-learning. Imagine a new highway built to make travel from A to B to C to D a straightforward journey. No tolls, no holdups, just time saving. Now imagine the old winding road required multiple stops, u- turns and deviations. If the aim is a fast, easy journey, logic would say stick to the highway. Yet in the Australian Army of 2020, units are still requiring personnel to not only drive that old road but the new highway as well.
The evolving digitisation of administrative processes to online should have drastically reduced the time spent completing administration; however, individual units within Army are complicating the system by holding on to outdated procedures.
Let’s use the example of applying for own means travel to self-drive to an interstate course at Unit A, a unit I was previously posted to. Unit A’s requirement is an admin coversheet, a minute requesting to drive to course, an annexed route card detailing the proposed journey and a completed AE505 Travel Request Form. This paperwork is then combined into one document in Adobe Pro before commencing the approval process through the chain of command.
However, the existing webform has rendered this convoluted process redundant as all the information covered in the supplementary documents can be found in the webform.
According to the travel request form guide , the AE505 Travel Request Form was created to replace a number of now obsolete webforms. The form enables the Applicant or Authorised Representative and Approving Authority (Manager/Supervisor/Delegate) to be responsible for the information supplied in the form and all approvals given.
PTE J Doe is posted to Unit A and is submitting a travel request to drive to an interstate course. PTE Doe edits a previously saved minute to request the self-drive, submits leave for the extra days it will take to drive, completes a travel request form and, finally, Google searches a directions route card. This process took PTE Doe two hours to complete.
PTE Doe emails the documents to their section commander, CPL S Brown, who looks over the paperwork and identifies errors in both the minute and the travel request form. The admin coversheet PTE Doe submitted was from the previous year and also requires updating. PTE Doe fixes the identified errors and resubmits. CPL Brown rechecks the paperwork and then forwards it onto the Admin SGT. This process took a total of one and a half working hours to complete.
The Admin SGT reviews the paperwork and identifies the digital signature does not match the dated signature on the minute. The SGT sends the paperwork back to PTE Doe to fix the error and resubmit. The SGT then portfolios the paperwork and sends it to the Platoon Commander. The Platoon Commander checks the paperwork and forwards it on. This process took one working hour to complete.
Therefore, for a PTE soldier to submit a travel request form, it has cost the platoon a total of four and a half working hours. The paperwork still needs to be processed through HQ and external units, eating up additional man hours.
In this case study, unnecessary paperwork caused excess work for all levels of the chain of command. The information supplied in the minute and the distances and locations provided on the route card were all listed in sections on the travel request form. The paperwork was completed simply because that was the way things were done in the past.
To simplify our work processes, it is recommended Army units use the digital forms that are available and remove the requirement to attach unneeded documents. The time saved can be better spent training. It is time to get off that old road and use the highway for what it is designed for.