Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Challenges to Implementing Wellbeing

When a controller from Bulgaria asked about the elements of a realistic complexity score, all of the respondents touched on various aspects of wellbeing. One entrepreneur of a South African Air Traffic Management (ATM) advisory service spoke about the culture and structure of management. A controller from Pakistan candidly described the conditions under which they worked and the points in their airspace that were frequently congested.  An FAA representative described the value of a suitable work environment with support systems. The message that wellbeing is and will be a daunting issue in ATC was very clear. But what are some challenges to implementing wellbeing and how can we overcome these challenges?

When ants have to carry heavy loads they adjust the size of the microscopic pads and increase the secretion of glue under their feet to help them transport objects that are 100 times their weight. How many of our managers have adjusted their thinking and increased their awareness to the role of wellbeing in ATC? The CEO of Ontonix Complexity Management remarked that "we are still linear in our thinking and philosophy (when) in Nature there are very few things that are genuinely linear." At a class in organizational innovation and strategy, a professor once noted that managers are always quick to verbally affirm their willingness to innovate but they are rarely ever ready to fully commit to the process. If managers are inflexible in their thinking toward the role of wellbeing, they will always perceive it as unimportant and irrelevant to the profession of ATC.
In addition to the misconstrued perceptions of wellbeing, is the ecology of the ATC unit or the working conditions under which ATCOs and AIS specialists operate.  Globally as an organization, we may be aware of some ATC units with less than optimal equipment or acute issues of work culture such as staffing, wages and training. But what about the cultural issues that we are ignorant of or work ethics that we have accepted as the norm? More and more organizations outside the domain of ATC are reviewing their hiring practices for employing managers because of the increase in narcissism or egotism and hectormania or passive bullying in the workplace. ATC units are not immune to these negative traits. Managers who are egotistic and prone to hectoring ATCOs and other staff will create unbalanced ecological work systems that hinder the effects of wellbeing.
If deficiencies exist in management, then it is likely that floor employees will also display behaviorisms that make it difficult to experience a happifying work culture. As you observe the following painting by Mark CROSS, can you think of an appropriate title? His painting describes a negative behavioral trait.

Have you ever found yourself acting like any of the persons in the painting? Look at the way they sit. Observe their facial expressions. The painting describes complacency. It is called Complacency's Profile. An ATCO who voices her dissatisfaction about any aspect of work with her colleagues, or who observes and passively accepts mediocrity at the ATC unit is displaying complacency like the people in the painting. Nothing is wrong with voicing dissatisfaction or observing mediocrity. But the complacent ATCO is content to complain in a forum where nothing happens because of fear of reprisal, or because of despair as a result of prolonged organizational disorder in the ATC unit.
The situation mentioned at the start of the post stressed the emergent need for ATC managers to recognize that without a suitable niche for wellbeing, efforts at modernizing the management of Air Traffic (ATM) will never be fully realised. There will always be a gap between theoretical intention and perplexing reality. 
What do you think we can do to overcome these challenges to implementing wellbeing? Consider this quote from Einstein:
"We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used, when we created them."

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