Something happened recently that did not garner much media attention but is worth noting among the Homeland Security set. Each and every Transportation Security Officer (about 55,000 people at 450 airports) at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently completed a two-day training course called ENGAGE. ENGAGE is an experiential, hands-on training effort aimed at calming the checkpoint to improve security. Officers learn to rely on critical thinking, create calm, and develop their own command presence. ENGAGE is based on the premise that engaging the public is a necessary component of effective security.
This differs from the agency’s old checklist mentality that did not provide officers the leeway to rely on their experience or follow their gut instinct in a given situation. The approach is collaborative and requires middle management to empower the rank and file to improve overall organizational performance.
It required agility to implement a transformational change in what amounts to light speed for a government agency. Usually nothing in government happens quickly. The ENGAGE training module and COACH training for managers was initiated last fall.
Employees met this empowerment with excitement and enthusiasm. Energy, a quality not typical of government, infused the workforce from the top ranks to the front lines. Daily work life for employees is markedly improved by shifting the culture and the checkpoint security experience is better for the traveling public. Haven’t you noticed less yelling at the checkpoint when you travel?
TSA is an innovative agency with the ability to execute risk-based security in a nimble, flexible manner. The next step may be trickier: sustaining the progress and commitment.
When a new TSA administrator is (finally) named, he or she will assume leadership of a dedicated network of security professionals committed to the homeland mission: protect and serve. In the meantime, TSA continues to make valuable progress.