Closed Circuit

By Philip Reed

The newly formed Extended Leadership Team, or XLT, kicked off the new year by holding its first formal meeting Jan. 8-9 at the Desert Southwest office in Phoenix, Arizona.

The XLT consists of WAPA’s senior leaders, vice presidents, administrative officers, regional financial managers, and the Safety and Security directors. The meeting’s focus was on strengthening WAPA’s foundation while adopting systems that enable agility. Members also addressed organizational culture and roles and responsibilities.

“We formed this new leadership body because, in an organization as large and far-flung as WAPA, it is crucial that those closest to the folks in the field, in the dispatch centers and trading power every day are directly engaged with the strategy and tactics of the organization,” said Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel.

The first day of the meeting focused on strategic business issues while the second centered on culture. “There is a significant difference between having a reactive culture and one that is proactive,” said Gabriel in his remarks. “Culture is a journey for us as an organization and for each of us as individuals. Culture on its own is neither good nor bad. Culture is what we each bring to it as individuals and how we speak together as an organization. We have a responsibility as leaders of WAPA to craft and maintain a culture that we want, that we can be proud of and that allows us to better perform as an organization.”

Gabriel spoke on a number of subjects, including the purpose of the XLT, Tactical Action Plan 2019 and investing in a connected future. The exercises in which the members participated during the two-day meeting were designed to stretch their thinking and take them out of their comfort zones.

“I am counting on your critical thinking and ask that you take risks to share your ideas today,” Gabriel told the group.

Communication was a major focus of the meeting, and Gabriel made clear that this was also to be a focus for every team member moving forward.

“We have a critical need for communications up and down the organization,” he said. “What we repeatedly hear from our employees is that they are hungry for information and leadership. We cannot overcommunicate, and I have learned in my decades of experience that sharing information is power; withholding it is a weakness. There is nothing to be gained by not sharing—other than a lack of alignment, suspicion and doubt about our mission.”

The meeting still left room for lighter moments, however, such as when XLT members participated in a crazy sock contest.

The inaugural meeting was met with an overall positive response from its participants, which speaks well of the value of the XLT.

“I believe we are beginning to gel as a team, and the XLT meetings are going to be highly beneficial,” said Desert Southwest Vice President of Transmission System Asset Management Jack Murray. “The XLT is taking a WAPA-wide view of issues while recognizing the nuances and needs of the individual regions.”

For Colorado River Storage Project Management Center Vice President of Power Marketing Brent Osiek, the meeting helped to actively connect what seemed like disparate initiatives. “An interesting and valuable exercise was working in small groups to notice and see the connections between the TAP and the core values,” Osiek said. “These two documents are often assumed to be unrelated, but in reality they are companion documents and support each other. Multiple core values impacted each aspect of the TAP. Everyone in the room gained a greater appreciation and understanding of these strategic documents.”

“We were able to learn decision-making tools and applied them directly to what we were learning,” said Acting Senior Vice President and Sierra Nevada Regional Manager Sonja Anderson. “We also discussed the TAP goals and had a very active discussion on our values that helped the XLT gain a joint understanding of them.”

The group also invited Salt River Project’s Senior Director of Corporate Strategy, Planning and Innovation Hank Courtright to speak on industry change.

The XLT plans to meet quarterly to review TAP progress and performance metrics, with two more face-to-face meetings scheduled for 2019.

“We are positioning WAPA in a way that will optimize our ability to respond to and accommodate the continuously evolving future,” said Gabriel.

Note: Reed is a contractor who works under the Wyandotte Services contract.

Extended Leadership Team photo

Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel addresses WAPA’s Extended 
Leadership Team at its inaugural meeting Jan. 8-9 in Phoenix, AZ.

Last modified on March 8th, 2024