The Red Queen Effect on Fighter Jets
Management and Entrepreneurship
The Red Queen effect refers to the conversation between the Red Queen and Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice realizes that she is running as fast as she can, but she is not getting anywhere relative to her surroundings. The Red Queen responds: “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” Simplistically, the underlying message is that continuous evolution is necessary to keep up with changing conditions. Initially, biologists applied this analogy to describe the evolution of species needed to increase the chances of survival in the dynamic environment. Specifically, the Red Queen effect provided logic for understanding how pathogens may maintain sexual reproduction in hosts to avoid extinction. Subsequently, many theorists have used the notion of the Red Queen effect to explain behavior in various adaptive systems, ranging from organizational competitiveness to the sustainability of societies. In the process improvement context, the Red Queen effect is the ability of an organization to continuously evolve and sustain improvements in performance. The Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Georgia adopted the concept of the Red Queen effect to evolve continuously and sustain improvements in its performance. The air logistics complex maintains or modifies operations on the C-5, C-17 and C-130 cargo aircraft and the F-15 fighter aircraft. Typically, significant maintenance activities follow similar steps: disassembly (and inspection), repair (or modification), buildup and functional test. We will examine the Red Queen effect on F-15 maintenance and how, over time, the trends show a significant increase in speed (or reduction in flow days), a decrease in work-in-process (WIP) inventory, an increase in quality of finished products and a decrease in cost.