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Volume 46 | Issue 3 | April 2004


photo: Kevin L. Petersen
Kevin L. Petersen

Center Director's column

Communications - the key to success.

The team at Dryden just showed what we can do when linking our technical capabilities with good communications. The successful flight of X-43A to Mach 7 combined the best capabilities of Dryden, the Langley Research Center and our government and industry partners. Without good communications, the Hyper-X team could not have worked together so effectively. It has provided an example to all of us.

We need to pay attention. Several sources, including employee surveys and our own mishap reports, indicate that overall, our communications need to improve. To start the process, I have revitalized a number of our communication forums. In addition to our monthly town hall meetings, I have instituted "Can We Talk" sessions once a month with small groups. Bob Meyer, Gwen Young and I will be meeting with groups around the Center to provide feedback and listen to employee concerns. This column will provide a further source of communication.

But we need better communication at all levels. We are all very busy, but we need to take the time to share our ideas and perceptions about ways of doing business, potential problems and concerns-especially with our team members and immediate supervisors.

The basis of good communication is trust. To help instill this trust, supervisors must be open to dissenting views and avoid erecting barriers to communication by dismissing or tuning out comments they may not want to hear. A critical element of communication is listening. Smart supervisors solicit comments, listen patiently and carefully to subordinates and discuss issues openly. Thoughtful subordinates phrase problems in non-threatening ways and recognize that their perspectives may not be the only valid ones. Supervisors and project managers may be unable to follow through with all employee or team-member suggestions but, if not, they should thank people for their thoughts and explain why they could not act upon them. Above all, they should treat dissenting opinions with respect and seek to win team members' support for (not just compliance with) all decisions.

If everyone at Dryden will approach communication in this spirit, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. We can make the recent success on the X-43A the start of a long string of new achievements in flight research. I urge you all to make this your goal. Together, we can ensure that Dryden retains its preeminent role in the world of flight research.