Saturday, April 30, 2016

Crew Resource Management

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is potentially one of the most hazardous work environments on earth. During flight operations, screaming machines of war race by at blinding speeds, giant cables reel in and out, highly combustible materials and rolling seas, precipitous drops and hard surfaces, burning heat and deafening sounds are all around. This may seem like chaos to the unfamiliar, but to the crew of pilots and aircraft handlers, wranglers, fuelers, support and safety personnel, its all in a days' work.
How does the Navy train these young men and women, some barely out of high school, to operate safely and effectively on this floating warrior city?
The answer is Crew Resource Management and a rolling wave of training.
Watch the video and look for the patterns of safety, sense-making and communication as the crew of the USS John C. Stennins conducts pilot qualification exercises in the fall of 2015.

This job is about situational awareness and sense-making in the midst of a hazardous and constantly changing environment. Aircraft are landing and taking off simultaneously. While moving around, hot exhaust from the engines sweeps the deck. The thick steel arresting cables are straining under the shock loads of landing, reeling out at 120 miles per hour and then being pulled back in seconds.
Notice the number of people involved. At first it looks like they are just milling around. In this launch sequence there are at least two dozen crew members. In fact, they are well prepared, with the right tools and protective gear. Their environment is organized. Lines on the deck mark safe and unsafe areas.
In spite of the crew regularly changing, the process is consistent. New staff come on board and seasoned crew depart, in groups, every few weeks. This creates a need for constant training as individuals move thru the three phases of being a student, a teacher and then an overseer.
Watch the yellow shirts carefully. They are doing a well choreographed routine, tuned for safety, efficiency and consistency. Information is exchanged thru multiple, redundant channels, The steps of the process are simultaneously being taught, learned and checked. Someone else always "has your back." Above all is the safety of every one involved. This dance is Kaizen on steroids.
How might this approach apply to managing the threats which you and your company face in your challenging and changing work environments?