NATS Case Study - Apollo 13

Quanta Training recently worked with NATS to deliver a large‐scale Apollo 13 simulation game day. Five games were played at the same time at one site, with over 60 members of their Service Operation team participating. Quanta worked to train the team on the importance of teamwork, communication and processes with the aim of improving value creation – all wrapped up in the neat bow of a fun, engaging and challenging service management simulation. Saving the ill‐fated Apollo 13 mission is no easy task, though. We spoke to Robert Green, Manager of Service Operations Technical Development to gain a better understanding of why they selected the Apollo 13 training event for new recruits within their Service Operations division.

Who are NATS?

NATS is a leading air traffic management and solutions company, established in the UK in 1962 and now operating in countries around the world.

NATS handled 2.6 million flights in 2018, covering the UK and eastern North Atlantic from its centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Ayrshire. NATS also provides air traffic services at 13 UK airports; at Gibraltar Airport and, in a joint venture with Ferrovial, at a number of airport towers in Spain.

Building on its reputation for operational excellence and innovation, NATS offers aerodrome, data, engineering, capacity, efficiency and environmental performance solutions to customers worldwide, including airports, airlines air traffic service providers and governments. 

Why choose games?

Speaking of the decision to hold the Apollo 13 training activity, Robert Green said,
‘As a business we’re going through a huge strategic transformation.  Service Orientation is our move from managing individual assets to becoming a service orientated organisation so we continue to deliver safe and efficient services now and into the future.  By becoming a service orientated organisation, we continue to put our customers and stakeholders at the core of everything we do.  By adopting a service orientated way of working we will make our systems, processes and services even more adaptive, intelligent and flexible.   To support this strategy, we’ve recruited people from within the business and externally, to build our capabilities within the Service Operations division.   We’ve created new and exciting ways of introducing this team to our business and how we work, with bespoke induction processes and continual learning throughout their start here, to help them develop in their new roles.
The Apollo 13 event from Quanta was selected as part of this recruit development process.  Our business adopts the ITIL framework and this ITIL related event provided a fun and engaging way for our new recruits to work together in groups.  The five groups were created specifically so that each group worked with people outside of their everyday teams.  In the run up to our Apollo 13 event, we communicated regularly with our event audience to ensure that they understood the purpose of the day, and that it was designed to demonstrate, in an engaging way, the value that good process and clear roles can bring to a mission through an interactive business game.   The day was very much positioned as an opportunity to develop, introduce and improve processes and see the impact that this has on the space mission, while building skills which were relevant, and could be used and taken back into their everyday work’.
Paul Wilkinson, Director and owner of GamingWorks, was on site as one of the five facilitators. As the man responsible for the writing of Apollo 13, he concurred that the game particularly “removes bottlenecks for information” through the capacity for end‐to‐end attendance from an entire organisation. He also noted that there is subsequently a reduced need to convince upper management to adopt the learning from the course."
Apollo 13
The Apollo 13 game provided the ideal scenario for displaying the applications of service management learning. It suited NATS because of its focus on improving the performance of their services through good quality process design. Learning how the theory works in practice generates a greater understanding of how these processes impact business value and continuity. As a bonus, the fun, borderline recreational tasks punctuated by theory throughout the day are the are an effective way to embed the skills and knowledge gained from the day.
Paul Wilkinson knew that Apollo 13 was the ideal choice of game (and ultimate mode of training). He added that, ‘the condensed learning works well’, going on to mention, the high stakes scenario is great for teambuilding with the opportunity to work together in a way that is really engaging’.
Quanta provided a consultative presence in the forming of the large‐scale training structure. Working with the customer, Quanta presented this rarely executed plan. Our lead Trainer, Adam, commented on the way that this format worked well for NATS due to everyone being trained simultaneously. The same training over a few weeks with one group learning at a time wouldn’t have been as effective. The teambuilding effects of the day would have been nullified, as well as a degree of curiosity being lost through the leaking of information about the game – potentially impacting engagement. The Quanta team provided the logistical key that made it possible to unlock the best possible outcomes from the training.
Robert Green at NATS was full of praise for the execution of the day, stating that feedback from the delegates was very positive and that many had stated that they would be able to apply the knowledge from the event within their work.
Working with Quanta Training can unlock many possibilities for a variety training, offering unique learning experiences for a range of training subjects. Get in touch with us today to see how business games will suit your organisation!

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