Monday, May 3, 2021

Teamwork Simplified

 Teamwork Simplified

By Catalina9

In aviation, both airlines and airports, teamwork is the foundation for an organization to function within a Safety Management System (SMS). A common expectation is that everyone must unconditionally “take one for the team” for the team to win or succeed. When someone “take one for the team” they are expected to willingly undertake an unpleasant task or make a personal sacrifice for the collective benefit of one's friends or colleagues. Should someone reject this notion that it is moral or necessarily for them to sacrifice their emotions, they will more than likely be kicked off the team. 

A scale is balanced by the SMS policy.
 Conventional wisdom is that there is “no I in team”.   This is as far from the fact that it could be. There will   always be an “I” in a team. The “I” could be by their   position of authority, by their vocabulary, by their   technical expertise or simply by their reputation within   the organization. Until the Safety Management System   came along, it was the “I” in the team who had control   over the masses. They would use the “safety card” and   imply that anyone who opposed their opinion of safety   were against safety and should be silenced in the   conversation. Playing the “safety card” is when   someone is making references to safety as a tool to   further their opinions and gain control of the conversation. An operational plan in aviation is called the safety management system for that exact reason. A safety management system in aviation is not about safety, but about process design, management, and oversight. The outcome of these SMS tasks are expected reduce, or even eliminate unexpected events and therefore we are safe. 

In 1912 an unsinkable ship left on a journey across the North Atlantic. A few years earlier Captain Smith’s own words were that “When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly forty years at sea, I merely say uneventful. I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about....I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort.” Everyone’s opinion was correct, in that the Titanic could not sink, since the experts who designed it said so, and they were in the good hands of Captain Smith. As we all know, the Titanic went down, but not because someone failed to complete a task, but because the system worked the way it was designed to work. NOTE: The system didn’t work as expected, but as designed. The team who designed the ship and operational process were in agreement and could therefore not be wrong. A safety statement in advertising is to persuade their team that a million people cannot be wrong. Any person who does not accept this statement is shunned or rejected by the group. A team was in the pre-SMS days a group of experts where the person with the best vocabulary or authority made an opinion-based decision and called it a team decision. 

Behind every door is a virtual reality attendee with facts to be discovered.
Over time virtual reality meetings or conferences has become the acceptable platform for meeting. Just a few months ago virtual meetings were infrequent and used as a last resort but changed very quickly. From small organizations to international level conferences, meetings are today conducted via virtual attendance. The aviation industry also adapted quickly to this platform where attendees are now placed in separate rooms or even separate locations across the globe. The transition from old-fashion meetings to virtual attendance just happened without conducting a safety case or change management analysis. Just as the Titanic was unsinkable, transitioning to virtual attendance was to be a flawless transition. 

An analysis of a transition to virtual attendance shows that teamwork has become much more team platform oriented and reduced the “I” from the team. Attendees now has an opportunity to raise their concerns, opinions, or suggestions by their physical distance from the other team members. There is also an opportunity for everyone to make their voice heard by anonymous submissions. Virtual attendance has opened a new door to the Safety Management System where facts are forced to be analyzed, rather than someone needs to “take one for the team”.  In a virtual conference environment, the other option but to accept inputs from everyone on the team, is to end the meeting. This unexpected change of personal involvement is a positive change to the aviation industry and hazard identification. 

An opportunity is delivered on a blank sheet of paper.
An enterprise operating within an SMS-world is required to implement a non-punitive policy, or a policy that differences of options cannot be punished. Since the beginning of SMS, in 2006 when Canada as the first country implemented the SMS regulations, a non-punitive policy was expected to be applied to airline or airport operations for hazard or incident reporting. This policy often came with a caveat that it would not be applied to illegal activity, negligence, or wilful misconduct. The intent, or expectation of the non-punitive policy was to protect a person when involved or observed unexpected events of job performance. A non-punitive policy is integrated in the safety policy on which the SMS system is based. The non-punitive policy was not considered to applied to meetings or teamwork, since it was a flight crewmember or airside worker who would fail their tasks and not the management who designed the systems. 

In a regulatory world the Safety Management System is applicable to an air operator certificate and an airport certificate. Any person who is without a role or responsibility in operations or management of these certificates may be excluded from the non-punitive policy. E.g., someone maintaining offices may be excluded, while someone maintaining an aircraft, or the airfield must be included. The Accountable Executive, CEO, or President are included, any management levels are included, and any operational and support levels are included in the non-punitive policy. However, senior management were excluded from the caveat that a non-punitive policy should be applied for illegal activity, negligence, or wilful misconduct. 

The “I” in team still exists within an SMS system and cannot be removed or ignored. The “I” in team is the SMS policy, the SMS non-punitive policy, objectives, goals, and parameters. Virtual reality attendance meetings have improved the opportunity for attendees to assign data, information, knowledge and their comprehension of systems to policies and objectives and bypass the gatekeeper’s opinion. Virtual attendance has placed the “I” in team where it should be, which is in the Safety Policy Team. When the Safety Policy is the focus of the discussion, teamwork is simplified.      


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