Monday, July 27, 2020

SMS Tomorrow

SMS Tomorrow
By Catalina9

When Canada, as the first ICAO State, implemented the Safety Management System (SMS) a prediction was that it would take several years to mature. After several years it has still not matured to its full potential. The SMS in itself cannot fail since its purpose is to paint a true picture of an enterprise. What can fail is accountability by the regulator and enterprise leaders.

The first step of SMS Tomorrow began yesterday
Today, the regulator has taken on a role as both a paying customer and a regulatory oversight body. In addition, the regulator is micromanaging smaller businesses to a degree that is detrimental to safety by failing operators for grammatical errors or demanding to be the decision maker in business solutions. Senior mangers in airport operations are accepting the regulator’s involvements without questioning the effect it has on their operations. What is being overlooked is that a functional SMS conforms to regulatory requirement and the regulator is conducting regulatory oversight, while the paying customers are exercising their privilege to audit an enterprise for safety. A successful SMS operates with both a regulatory component and a safety component. What is crucial to operations is that these two bodies are independent of the enterprise and independent of each other.

SMS tomorrow will be different than what it is today. A future SMS enters into a commitment agreement with the flying public, the regulator, airports and airlines to only accept nothing less than excellence in operational processes. Excellence is not to be perfect and live in a virtual, or fantasy world. Excellence is incremental improvements of safety processes. SMS is not to show that we always get everything right, but to build a portfolio of safety. A fully potential SMS operates with a businesslike approach to safety.  

The fork in the road became an obstacle and not a path of incremental improvements
In essence, since the first phase of SMS implementation, it has followed the five stages of grief. First there was denial that SMS was a highly improved system to manage safety over other systems. Conventional wisdom in the aviation industry was that aviation had reached its maximum safety potential and that SMS could not improve safety. It was not accepted by the regulator or the public that SMS would outrun any other safety systems. Leaders, managers and other personnel felt hurt and in their own mind viewed their prior safety actions as failures. Then comes the anger. During the first few year of SMS, inspector and operators were angry and for every accident an SMS blame-factor was included. It went so far that professional SMS surveys set the SMS up to fail and they were skewed to paint a failing picture of the SMS. After that came the bargaining stage. On-demand and smaller carriers were negotiated by the aviation industry to be excluded from SMS regulatory requirement. The fourth step of the grief stages is depression. After operators made several honest attempts to address safety, the regulator overwhelmed them with findings, including unreasonable findings. Every operator, both airlines and airports became unhappy with their own operations and the regulator’s unfair approach. Operators subsumed to the pressure and accepted the checkbox syndrome as their solution. The checkbox syndrome is when the most important task in the SMS is to ensure that their checkboxes are checked to please the regulator. The final step is acceptance and we are not there yet. Acceptance is accountability and is to accept that we do not currently fully comprehend SMS. Only when SMS is accepted as a supreme system to any other known safety systems, and when accepted as a businesslike approach to safety is when is it moving towards its full potential. When safety becomes paramount, as opposed to the-number-one-priority, is when SMS is on an incremental path to reach its full potential.

Operators can choose between Excellence or Mediocrity. Picking mediocrity as a goal is the path of least resistance and the easy way out. If noting, or when very little is expected it’s impossible to lose. When operating without expectations nobody is at fault when things go wring. Fear of failure is the leading cause to avoid setting challenging goals. When we fail, we wonder what everyone else will think of us and how the failure will affect our future. We start worrying about missing out on future opportunities. If we avoid accepting opportunities, we save face and it can be backed up with that we tried. An old saying is that when we fail to plan, we plan to fail. 

Aviation safety was built on failures. Every improvement of safety was designed from failures and major accidents. What a functional SMS does is to move failures from physical harm to failures on the drawing board. When tests fails on the drawing board the aviation industry saves the world from a whole lot of grief.

SMS is the North Star of an Enterprise. Accountable Executive is the compass.
SMS tomorrow is when customers conduct safety audits of the operations and the regulator only inspects for regulatory compliance. A customer safety audit is based on real-time discoveries of operations and customers confidence level. A customer confidence level is a person’s opinion in real-time. This is the only time when opinions are introduced into the SMS as facts. In addition, it is just as important to know that this is not a social-media opinion, it is not a cloud-based survey opinion or a written opinion, but an emotion shared in real-time by that person. An SMS in its full potential is when customer service is the priority and safety is paramount.     

An inspection is a snapshot in time at the time of inspection. A regulatory inspection is not a movie or taping of events, but a snapshot picture at that time. An item in compliance at one time could be in non-compliance a few minutes later. Regulatory compliance is not a guarantee for safety in operations. On the other hand, when a customer conducts safety audits, they are not bound by regulatory requirements but by their confidence level of safety in operations. A finding becomes what in their opinion is a finding. A successful SMS is design as being viewed by their customers. The airport or airline best suited to service their customers needs gets the sale.

It is only people who can make an SMS work as it should and paint a likable picture of an enterprise. Automation and cloud-based SMS programs are exceptional and excellent tools to achieve goals and objectives. However, when these tools become a definite major purpose, operational control of servicing people is lost. If an operator really wants the SMS to paint a presentable picture of the organization, it is crucial for success that they treat SMS like a million dollars. A successful customer service SMS comes with oversight and a quality control element in every process.

A successful SMS tomorrow understand what customers want. The most important part of an SMS is to comprehend the needs of customer and find a way satisfy their wishes. An SMS that focuses on customer service and how a product or service can meet their needs is much more successful than an SMS in compliance with the regulatory checkbox system. Design your SMS Tomorrow as a personal SMS where your customers feel have confidence in you as a person and that they feel comfortable and protected from harm. Both airports and airlines are in the business of caring for memories and sentimental values. Be of a value to the customer by helping, guiding and assist in every single process designed. A well-organized SMS includes a Daily Rundown and Quality Control systems as a prerequisite for Quality Assurance. A successful SMS is Project Solutions Leadership Motivation. 

Without a clear comprehension SMS Tomorrow is hidden in plain view
Vision of tomorrow’s SMS when you are servicing your customers rather than providing a service from a regulatory point of view. An SMS tomorrow is when there is trust, learning, accountability and information sharing between an enterprise and the people they are servicing.
Tomorrow, when you sit down and looking back at yesterday, you will find an SMS where the regulator conducted regulatory oversight and the people our enterprise was servicing conducted safety in operations audits. In an SMS tomorrow we do not manage risks, but we lead personnel, manage equipment and validate operational design for incremental performance above a safety risk level bar established by our customers.

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