Thursday, November 18, 2010

TSA Full Body Scanner Images Controversy (Part 2)

In my blog posting yesterday, I explained that stakeholders have a hierarchy of values and that because the TSA did not fully understand their stakeholders, they had erroneously believed that the American public would value security over their rights for individual privacy.  Some readers have then asked me what could, or should, the TSA have done better to avoid this crisis.

To me, aside from having a better understanding of their stakeholders, there are 2 things that the TSA could have done better.

Firstly, I would have advised the TSA to initiate a "public consultation" on the introduction of the full body scanners.  While the TSA need not fully accept the publics' views, a public consultation would have enabled the affected stakeholders to be a participant in the decision-making process.  And as a participant, regardless of whether their views are adopted, the participant has a perceived stake in the decision and is more inclined to support it.  Additionally, in the absence of a thorough understanding of the stakeholder, a public consultation is akin to test marketing a product.  In this scenario, it is likely that a public consultation would have highlighted the strong opposition to the nation-wide implementation of the full-body scanners and allowed the TSA to adjust its approach.

Secondly, I would have advised the TSA to engage and develop an "independent" Key Communicator to sell its Message.  In this scenario, the ideal Key Communicators would be the pilots and flight attendants as they are the ones most affected by the implementation of the full body scanners due to their frequency of exposure.  In addition, pilots and flight attendants are seen as leaders in the aviation industry and their opinion would be credible.

Hence, it is my opinion, that the TSA could have avoided this crisis by simply (a) engaging the affected stakeholders via a public consultation; and (b) identifying and buying-in key communicators to sell its Message.

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