A Pair of Facilities in Washington State Help to Lead Collaboration, Right From The Start
Friday, September 06, 2013

A joint NATCA-FAA program is helping to develop strong collaborative relationships between NATCA facility representatives and new air traffic managers.

The program, known as Right From The Start has worked with more than a dozen field facilities since its start in 2010. This year it helped two new air traffic managers in Washington state strengthen healthy, new working relationships with their NATCA counterparts. More importantly, the relationship matured from a positive early beginning to reliable teamwork.

Right From The Start takes a much deeper look into a facility's whole workforce than most programs, interviewing both management and labor, and identifying ways to strengthen its organizational effectiveness through true collaboration.

In August, a Right From The Start team revisited Grant County Tower and TRACON in Moses Lake (MWH) and PASCO/Tri-Cities Tower in Pasco (PSC). They found that facility leadership has been using joint initiatives like the Collaborative Work Group process and Interest Based Communication to epitomize the modern, collaborative relationship that FAA and NATCA leadership are striving to build.

Terminal District Manager Heather Leonard and her NATCA counterpart, Northwest Mountain Alternate Regional Vice President Doug Pincock, had invited Right From The Start to the two facilities earlier this year to help establish the new air traffic managers in a sound working relationship with the NATCA facility representatives and the workforce.

Leonard and Pincock joined the Right From The Start team on Aug. 16 to personally acknowledge and thank the leaders for their accomplishments. 

“It is gratifying to see facility leadership, both FAA and NATCA, working as a team toward common goals,” said Pincock. “Pasco and Moses Lake are great examples of how well facilities can run when open and honest dialogue are common practice.” 

NATCA Northwest Mountain Alternate Regional Vice President Doug Pincock talks with Terminal District Manager Heather Leonard.

When the Right From the Start team began their facility interviews in February, it was clear that the working relationships at both towers were getting off to a great beginning. The Right From The Start program, along with the Collaborative Work Group process and Interest Based Communication, provided an opportunity to really capitalize on that strength.

Several facilities around the country are finding that Interest Based Communication training helped them collaborate better, and Grant County Facility Representative Paul Theriault mentioned it as a pivotal experience for him and Air Traffic Manager Joe Carrigan. 

“Before Joe got here, we had temporary managers and our training was really broken,” Theriault said. “Then they sent us a pile of trainees all at once and overloaded the system. I first met Joe at IBC training, and that helped us jump right in and start fixing it together. And the people who work here could tell it was getting better.” 

For Carrigan, the basic need for collaboration was natural. 

“I grew up in an ATC family, and also my having worked in other places really helps me,” he said. “And I know that we’re not ‘management’ or ‘NATCA’ — we’re really a team. To be successful, I need Paul and he needs me.”

Leonard noted that there are already plans to bring Interest Based Communication training to other levels of leadership below facility representatives and air traffic managers. 

“I’m glad that we’re looking at an IBC II to push this collaboration throughout the system,” she said. “That will help us get to where we really need to go.”

At Pasco Tower, relatively new air traffic manager Kurt Proctor brings a personal philosophy of leadership to the mix of managerial responsibilities and collaborative initiatives.

“I really like controllers,” he said. “The huge majority want to come to work and make things better. And my job is to help develop them and then get out of their way. It’s really not that hard. I assume positive intent, and I assume human beings make mistakes. Give them a chance and they’ll find their spot.” 

Russ Miller, NATCA National Coordinator on the Collaboration Oversight Group, talks with Pasco Tower Air Traffic Manager Kurt Proctor.

Proctor and his counterpart, Pasco Facility Representative Thomas Weaver, have been successful in addressing a number of issues this year, often by sending an issue to a collaborative workgroup to tackle. But Weaver also describes their collaborative style as pretty informal. 

“When one of us has an idea, we talk about it right away,” he said. “We don’t sit around and think ‘Hey, we need to collaborate.’ We just start discussing. And a lot of our success is we let lots of people be actively involved in improving their workplace. Any individual can bring something.”
Right From The Start, the Collaborative Work Group process and Interest Based Communication are joint collaborative initiatives between NATCA and the ATO, managed out of the Organizational Effectiveness office in Washington, D.C.
For questions or more information about the Right From The Start program or the other FAA-NATCA collaborative initiatives contact:
Bill Smar from Organizational Effectiveness at bill.smar@faa.gov  
Tom Hayes from Organizational Effectiveness at tom.j.hayes@faa.gov
Russ Miller from NATCA at russ.miller@natca.net