Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mr. Pilkington comes to Tea (with ANSPs)

In George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm (1945), Mr. Pilkington is a stakeholder who dines with and elicits the cooperation of Napolean, the pig who owns the farm. The novel tells satirically of the progress of a farm that overthrows a human farmer and is run by animals. For us, it raises a poignant issue: What sort of relationship should stakeholders have with Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs)? 

Both the inside and outside stakeholders (Soni, 2009) were not exempted from culpability when a commission of inquiry investigated the nuclear accident at Fukushima Japan, 2011. According to columnist Hiroko Tabuchi (2012), the statement from the inquiry declared that there was a “breakdown in communications” between the stakeholders and executive management.  The stakeholders “misunderstood” the executive management while the latter displayed an “inability to report clearly” to the stakeholders.
The inquiry also exposed the collusion between the stakeholders, the executive management and the regulators. For inspite of the revision of safety standards for Nuclear Reactors in 2006 and the mandate for upgrades and inspections, the commission found that the stakeholders and the executive management “manipulated the regulators to have a cozy relationship”.
In a more recent example, the US Senate passed a furlough-relief bill (Dazio, 2013) the week of April 21st to halt the reduction of staffing and the closure of Aerodrome Towers across the country due to sequestration. The furloughs resulted in a surge of air traffic delays and staffing woes – problems that could have been avoided had the stakeholders involved the national and regional Air Traffic Control Associations in the communication process.
The Senate approved a Reducing Flight Delays Act that will grant the secretary of transport the permission to render increased financial support to the Federal Aviation Administration. And yet, it seems that the Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) are still left out of the decision-making process.
These 2 examples undoubtedly highlight that stakeholders could be misinformed. Their objectives could be conflicting and counterproductive.  Translating these aims of stakeholders into functions for an ANSP may present no small challenge as our ANSPs are atypical industries: we do not produce goods for household consumption and we do not contribute directly to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

Relationship between stakeholder and ANSP
The image at the start of the post is an artist’s depiction of the battle of the windmill which, according to the plot of the novel, was instigated by a stakeholder. Another stakeholder, Mr. Pilkington, elicited the cooperation of Napolean to join an alliance of farmers that will certainly benefit the farm. But the alliance is also a movement that will increase hardship for animal and human laborers.

In the context of Air Traffic Control (ATC), stakeholders represent anyone who has an interest in the ANSP as an organization. The role is not limited to government and others who proffer financial support. They could be supervisors or line managers which makes them inside stakeholders. Obviously, it is in an ANSP’s better interest to engage the commitment of as many stakeholders as possible. But with this privilege comes the added responsibility of keeping them engaged via collaborative decision-making. And this involves more than pleasant talk and scrumptious pastries.

According to the company BSR who specializes in stakeholder strategy, the engagement of stakeholders is a negotiating process that includes the mapping of stakeholders, the streamlining of similar goals and the consistent reviewing of the performance of the organization. If the task seems formidable for 1 ANSP, it is even more daunting for a group of ANSPs in an alliance. But effective strategy starts from within. Improperly or poorly defined organizational structure of an ANSP or lack of uniformity in organizational structure among groups of ANSPs will undermine the engagement of stakeholders.
In the novel, while the stakeholders dined with the executive of the farm, the rest of the animals stood outside the window and watched. Instead of having them as passive observers, or subservient participants, it is best and smart organizational practice to actively include ATCOs; particularly the inside stakeholders, in the collaborative decision-making process.

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