The Swiss Cheese
The other day when I was on my way to the store to buy swiss cheese and it was raining. I had opened my umbrella inside, walk under a ladder and a black cat crossed in front of me by the time I got to my car. My day was off to an unpredictable day. I purchased a block of swiss cheese and a package of sliced. I could not see the swiss cheese holes in the block, but I could see them in the sliced cheese, and all the holes were lined up. An unavoidable incident seems to be on the march in my direction today. I had opened an umbrella inside, walked under a ladder, black cat crossed in front of me and now all the holes in the swiss cheese lined up. And to make things worse, I embrace the principle that more is less and less is more.
|Umbrellas are attainable and measurable goals to be used for |
They key to a successful SMS is to accept that there are micro-systems within larger systems. These micro-systems are defined as at random, since there is no obvious logic to how they form or are placed within its own system. The definition of at random in the Marriam-Webster dictionary is without definite aim, direction, rule, or method, and lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern. Applying these micro-systems as random and unpredictable is how they must be applied within an SMS enterprise.
|A latter is a tool to reach new goals, so don’t walk |
Conventional wisdom is that more is less, and less is more. Professional organizations are rigidly applying this principle in their decision-making process. When applied correctly, simplifying processes is a tool to achieve more. However, simplifying processes does not include a reduction in level of service, or removal of regulatory compliance processes. When more is less, and less is more, there is much more work, research, design, and project planning needed to produce a simplified system output on the front line.
|Looking for the black cat is active hazard identification|
A Regulator is responsible for the development and regulation of aeronautics and the supervision of all matters connected with aeronautics. When a new regulation comes into force, an airport or airline operator only have one choice to continue operations, which is to maintain compliance with the new regulation. Public opinions, political environment and aviation incidents are all triggers for new regulations. Over time these regulations add up to an overwhelming task for both airlines and airports. In addition, the regulations require an SMS enterprise to run a safety management system that is adapted to the size, nature and complexity of the operations, activities, hazards, and risks associated with the operations. More regulation and a scaled down SMS system are two opposing regulatory requirements.
Scaling down an SMS enterprise is not to remove or decline specific regulations, but to combine operational tasks applicable to each regulatory requirement. Scaling down is to make your job as the Accountable Executive userfriendly and manageable for the SMS Manager. When regulations are performance based, an operator is obligated to demonstrate how their activities conform to the regulations. Demonstrating compliance is more than demonstrating compliance with one regulation, but to demonstrate how each task maintain compliance, and how any of these separate tasks does not interfere or causing non-compliance with other regulations.
The swiss cheese principle is a valuable analogy to describe actions, reactions and results of a micro-hazard travelling through the cheese and setting the main system up for failure by travelling through each hole in the swiss cheese. However, if an SMS enterprise establish a safety goal to avoid the swiss cheese holes and objectives are to navigate safely around the holes, they are doing the right thing, but operating with unmeasurable goals since the distance and directions to the holes are not measurable.
Applying the principle that less is more and more is less gives the same output as the swiss cheese principle. Both principles come with a valuable application, but it is impossible to establish measurable goals from these principles. On the other hand, opening an umbrella inside, walking under a ladder or the black cat crossing, are all events that can be used to establish measurable goals. Find the umbrella, ladder, and black cat within your SMS enterprise micro-systems to build a portfolio of safety.