Monday, March 22, 2021

Where Is SMS Going

 Where Is SMS Going

By Catalina9

The Safety Management System (SMS) in aviation is has since its infancy taken many twists and turns to find a path forward. SMS started out as an idea of how aviation should manage safety and for the system to be integrated into a functional safety system in the operations. Prior to SMS safety was managed by the “safety card”, or an opinion-based safety solution process. With this in mind, the onset of SMS forced airlines and airport operators to revamp their safety structure and change their approach to safety 180 degrees. 

Without taking ownership of SMS direction for success is only random
This new approach caused conflicts and confusion and the path of least resistance was to reject the new Safety Management System. Rejection became apparent in news articles about how SMS had failed safety and surveys were tailored to show this. However, over a short time SMS grew enough roots to resist being pulled out and it grew stronger. One lesson the aviation industry learned quickly about SMS was that it could not fail since it was a mirror of their operations and painted a true picture of their leadership. As a mirror, the SMS caused a friction between SMS and its Accountable Executive. Since the aviation industry had developed a great safety record over the years, it was difficult to accept the fact that they might not be as safe as they thought they were.

SMS will be going in the direction of what direction the aviation industry wants it to take. It is therefore crucial that high-level leaders understand and comprehend their SMS and policies they are drafting. SMS is unlike older safety systems in that it does not force safety onto operators, but rather identifies to operators if they drift away from or remains on the path towards their objectives and goals. SMS is designed to be a fluid system and adjust to operational needs. Regulatory oversight bodies and the aviation industry are both affected by external pressure from the public, from the industry itself and from political polices of how to regulatory shape the SMS. Just a short time after SMS became a regulatory requirement for all operators, the smaller on-demand and charter only operators were excluded from operating with an SMS. This was the first time the aviation industry mapped the SMS landscape and chose their path of least resistance.

The path to a successful SMS is a balancing act.
 There are two different paths the SMS needs to take   going forward. One is the regulatory path and the   other is the operational path. These are two distinct   and different paths, while they still are connected to   the outcome of safety. Look at this as each rail of a   railroad track. Regulations in themselves are not   safety in operations requirements, but requirements   for compliance in a static environment. This can best   be described as the issuance of an airline or airport   certificate, which is issued to a static environment with planned directions of travel. As soon as there are movements is when it becomes operational and incremental safety improvements kicks in. The regulator must assess an SMS based on regulatory compliance, while an operator must assess their SMS in a fluid and operational state. Only by comprehending SMS is it possible to see the differences and that these two paths are parallel and not opposing paths.

The path SMS needs to take is the system approach path where the task becomes to design systems and processes to complete operational tasks without first assessing each task for regulatory compliance. This does not imply that systems are not assessed for regulatory compliance, but rather that the first task is to identify current operational processes since they paint a true picture of operations. This is different than conducting a gap analysis, since it is a process tracking task. After systems and processes are identified, they are assigned a regulatory compliance component and integrated in a daily quality control system. Quality control of operations is a prerequisite for the Quality Assurance System. 
Without a quality control path, the SMS is wavering

Where SMS is going is difficult to predict since there are special cause variations that will affect its path. The path it must take is the path of incremental safety improvements for both airlines and airports. Over time it will be possible to identify drift away the desired and projected path. When drift is identified it becomes possible to make incremental corrections of operational processes to change course or move back onto the path. Drift in itself is not necessarily undesirable or an unsafe change, but often a change because the planned systems and processes were impractical. The unsafe portion of drift is when the drift itself remains unidentified. 

The first stage of drift at the operational level is for a process to self-adjusts to a practical process; e.g. a pilot changing from IFR to a visual approach in VFR conditions. Eventually this drift was identified and integrated as a standard process. The second part of drift is at the management or organizational level where complacency drives the processes. Social media also has a major impact on the SMS decision-making process.  Social media is free advertising for special interest groups, including support groups for a healthy Safety Management System. 

When assessing the future of where SMS Is Going one must reflect on the past path. It is reasonable to assess that the past path of SMS, becomes a forward-looking guidance of the path to come in the future. By laying out the path from the past drift can be monitored and adjusted if the drift is undesirable. SMS is a system which cannot fail since it paints a true picture of an enterprise. For several reasons there were opposition to SMS from the industry and the regulator when the SMS regulations first was implemented. Some of the opposition was reasonable and relevant to the facts, while other were emotional and irrelevant to facts. Within a short time, surveys were designed to fail the SMS. An example is the CBC News article posted on April 14, 2014 about SMS; “A survey of Canada’s aviation inspectors shows they are increasingly concerned about aviation safety because of Transport Canada rules that leave responsibility for setting acceptable levels of risk up to the airlines. The survey, conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association (CFPA), indicates 67 per cent of Canadian aviation inspectors believe the current system increases the risk of a major aviation accident, up from 61 per cent in 2007.” Today is 2021, and we now know that 67% were wrong at that time. There has not been a major aviation accident being contributed to the SMS since the survey. Human factors has not changed and it is reasonable to assume that when opinions about SMS is applied, as opposed to data and facts, 67% will be wrong in the future. 

There was one simple reason why SMS was made a regulatory requirement some years ago. The reason was an understanding that their old aviation oversight system was not capable of preventing accidents. It was also understood that operators, both airlines and airports, did not have a regulatory tool available to prevent accidents until SMS became available.  A friend of mine once said: “As long as the regulatory authorities don't receive feedback from operators (as it is now in many countries), and safety accountability is not practiced and not even understood or taken seriously, the SMS will still generate data, but I cannot imagine or would say if it would be worth data; i.e. proactive data.“ This is so true. Data will be pouring in and stored without assessment or considerations. The test today to lay out the path for the NexGen SMS, is to apply the WINK test, or the What I Now Know test. If I had known then, what I now know, what would I have done different about SMS and then apply this comprehension to the NextGen SMS path. 

Comprehending SMS is a process.

Foundation of comprehension is data. When raw data is collected it comes in all types, shapes, and forms. Some enterprises do not accept data, or reports, if they are not submitted in its proper format. When the report-format is the primary tool to validate a report, the report itself will be a support tool for the safety policy rather than a support tool for data collection of hazards. An enterprise should accept any reports submitted in any format, by a report form, email, telephone, fax, verbally, news article, regulatory finding or even as a hearsay. Look at the reports as the ballots for a small-town mayor election, where the candidates are randomly submitted without preference until the count is completed. It is when data is analyzed it can be turned into information. Information is neutral, without bias or emotions. Information generate knowledge by being absorbed by one or more of the five senses. Absorbed knowledge then generates comprehension of one or more systems and their interactions.

A Safety Management System is irrelevant to safety unless it operates with a daily rundown quality controls system and daily incremental improvements derived from WINK or the What I Now Know test. For the Safety Management System to be effective, all levels in an organization must be able to answer the same question asked over and over again; “Why does the Global Aviation Industry, being Airlines or Airports, need a Safety Management System (SMS) today, when they were safe yesterday without an SMS?” Unless the reason is known, there is no motivation to improve. For the next ten years, the one major definite purpose and the greatest single reason for an SMS is for every single airline or airport personnel to accept and take ownership of their Safety Management System. There is nothing else that matters on the path Where SMS Is Going.  


Sunday, March 7, 2021



By Catalina9

Complacency is a human behavior hazardous to aviation safety. Complacency has become the new root cause for accidents and replaced pilot error. It is conventional wisdom that complacency is caused by the very things that should prevent accidents, factors like experience, training and knowledge contribute to complacency. Complacency makes crews skip hurriedly through checklists, fail to monitor instruments closely or utilize all navigational aids. It can cause a crew to use shortcuts and poor judgement and to resort to other malpractices that mean the difference between hazardous performance and professional performance. Complacency is also given as the reason when things go wrong flying the same route daily or doing the same job regularly. Complacency has just become another word for pilot error. However, this is all wrong. Complacency is not caused by experience, training, or knowledge. Complacency is all about organizational factor. 

Complacency is to take the path of least resistance.
 When conducting a root cause analysis within a   Safety Management System (SMS) world there are   four factors to consider. These are human factors,   organizational factors, supervision factors and   environmental factors. It is also crucial to a root   cause analysis to know that these factors do not   cause  complacency. In a healthy enterprise   complacency as a root cause does not exist. 

Complacency is when you are no longer striving to do your best or perform with accountability, but just do the minimum to get by. Complacency is also when you are not staying up to date in your field as an airline or airport operator. Complacency is to wait for the regulator to find problems with operations, rather than operating with a Quality Assurance System. Even if the subject is not linked to the aviation industry, take a course, or attend a conference. It is easy to drift into complacency, but it is not noticeable yourself.  Complacency is also when you are not seeking or taking advantage of new opportunities but relying on yesterdays news. There are enterprises, both large and small, that believe training is busy-time, or waste of time since their personnel was already trained. Annual training that is not a regulatory requirement are discouraged by these so-called leaders.  When you do not seek or take advantage of opportunities your skills become stale. Doing the same thing over and over gets boring. You remain invisible. Key stakeholders and decision makers do not know that the value that you contribute is to set up for an accident. Look for opportunities to work on new projects and maintain an active and curious mind. Complacency is when you are not maintaining or building your network of business contacts or associating with the industry.  When you do not build ongoing relationships at work or stay tuned to aviation news, you are not privy to critical information that can influence your daily job performance. Complacency is when you do not risk sharing your opinion or ideas. This is a high-risk factor, since when there is an inherent risk by sharing opinions, enterprises are operating outside a just culture environment. 

Complacency is to force the wrong piece to fit the puzzle.
 Complacency is not a condition but a symptom of   hazards within an enterprise and their lack of   commitment to organizational factors. To perform at 
 their best, individuals have two basic needs in the   world of work, if it is in the aviation industry or any   other industry.  The first is the autonomy need. This   is  the need to be seen and respected as an individual,   and to stand out for one’s personal performance. It is   a need to be recognized for individual achievements.   The second need is the dependency need that each   person has in the workplace. This is the need that people have to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. People want to be part of a team. It is the need to feel recognized and accepted as part of a group of people in the workplace.

Leaders create environments where people feel both autonomous and important, on the one hand, and have their dependency needs satisfied by making them feel as if they are part of a team; part of the whole organization. Using positive reinforcement at work is a key factor in personnel motivation. It is what takes place at the moment of contact or communication between the manager and personnel that is the key determinant of performance, effectiveness, productivity, output and profitability of an organization. The point at which the two people connect, whether positively or negatively, is where the past, present and future performance of the individual and the organization is determined. When this contact between the boss and the subordinate is positive, supportive, and encouraging of self-esteem and a positive self-image, then performance, productivity and output of the individual will reach its highest level.

When lightning strikes it’s best to play it safe.

  The worst way to gain personnel satisfaction is   when  the point of contact between the manager and   the managed is negative for any reason at all,   performance and output will decline. A negative   relationship with the boss will trigger fears of failure,   rejection, and disapproval. When their boss is   negative for any reason, people will play it safe, and   only do exactly what they need to do to avoid being 
 fired. Almost everyone has worked in a low self-   esteem environment. These are usually remembered   as the worst jobs the person ever had. Everything you do to improve this intersection or contact improves the overall quality of your work life, no matter where you are on the ladder of management.

The more effective you can become in eliciting peak performance from each of your staff members, the more and better people you will be given to manage for it. The top managers and leaders of today are those who are capable of eliciting extraordinary performance from ordinary people. Effective managers are intensely action oriented. When they hear a good idea, they move quickly to implement the idea and put it into action. Therefore, if you hear about anything that you think can help you to motivate your staff to a higher level, do not delay. Practice it immediately, that very day. You will be amazed at the results.

The Safety Management System (SMS) has all the tools an enterprise needs for Project Solutions Leadership Motivation. SMS has a just culture, where there is trust, learning, accountability and information sharing. In a successful SMS world, comprehension is derived from data (collected by hazard, incident or accident reports), information (data is turned into information), knowledge (absorbed information) and comprehension (interacting systems). When comprehension is missing the system is faulty, or data is not analyzed, system comprehension is faulty. This faulty system comprehension does not rest with pilots, mechanics, or airport crew, but with the enterprise. When a CEO or Accountable Executive wants to find out the reason for complacency in their organization, all they have to do is to take a look in the mirror. 


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