Heard it through the grapvine?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joe Friday
  • 908th Maintenance Group
Did you ever play the grapevine game in elementary school? For those of you who didn't here's how the game worked:

The teacher would arrange the students in a straight line and then whisper a statement in the first student's ear and ask that they in turn whisper it to the kid standing next to them until it had made it to the last kid in line.

When the last kid in line had heard it, that student would write it on the blackboard and then the teacher would tell everyone what they had said. Usually there was a significant difference between what was said by the teacher originally and what was finally heard by the students.

This simple game clearly demonstrates the importance of communication and how the original message can be lost or misunderstood as it is retold. Let's consider how this might affect us in our current profession.

An example that comes to mind for me is how we use and interpret Air Force guidance.
Often I hear others quoting Air Force guidance only to discover later that either the guidance had changed since they had last read it or that their interpretation of it was different than what was commonly accepted.

The problem here is that the people who hear them quoting the guidance then consider that information to be accurate and then in turn repeat it to others.

As this message is communicated from person to person, the information is less and less accurate as with the grapevine scenario above. So how do we fix this problem?
The answer is simple.

When you quote Air Force policy, be ready to show the reference. If you can provide not only the Air Force Instruction number but also the paragraph where it can be found, it shows you are getting this guidance straight from the source and learning what we all should have in elementary school.