N2 People Skills

Friday, October 22, 2010

Subs, Super Yachts and Warships, Hi-tech, does not stop Non-technical problems / Human Error

 Well it looks like it is not just the US that runs $MultiB Navy vessels aground in fair weather. Last Sept it was the USS Port Royal's Captain's turn to be embarrassed and end up loosing his command. This year not to be outdone, the Royal Navy entered the "Best Grounding" category with today's event in Scotland, and may well have come away with the winner.

But in all seriousness, what is going on aboard these highly technical ships and Submarines? Is it that training gets so technical that crew end up as extensions of the equipment, void of self awareness and situation awareness, and a few other non-technical skills ?
"To err is human" I guess so judging by what Mr John Ainslie said to the BBC:
 "Inquiries into previous incidents have shown an appalling lack of common sense and basic navigation skills on these hi-tech submarines."
Today's incident and what we have seen through the Summer in the Med on Super Yachts, rings true that even the most well intentioned, best technically trained, consistently performing individuals and crews, commit errors.  Helios Maritime Aviation has a couple of pages on the 'Human Factor' with  views of it's relevance on accidents and their training programs.

Whether you call it 'Human Factor' or 'Human Error' it has plagued many industries such as the Civil aviation industry, fire departments, Commercial maritime industry and it seems also the worlds Navies  and Super Yacht industry (although not talked about much on the open airwaves).

For me the simple fact of asking a handful of people to live and work closely together is going to create issues. The problem here is that without some form of training and development in people skills, these issues have a nasty habit of being brushed under the carpet, or tossed over the side. And just as we used to throw our waste over the side and think nothing of it until we walked on a beach with trash on. Issues fester and grow when tossed, and will come back to bite you, and when they do come back, it is nearly impossible to recognize what it was you threw over the side.

Communication (see previous blog) is paramount to working aboard a vessel safely and amicably.And we all have preferences in communicating, verbally and non verbally. Even reading this blog you have a preference in how you read and take in information.  If you want to see multiple human error events in communication, watch the TV series 'Deadliest Catch'. Its great research material on how communication can cause human error.

Whether the Sub running aground was human error of not, (we shall have to wait for more info) the USS Port Royal was, as are 80% of maritime collisions. Multicultural crews are a subject many times brought up in reports of accidents and it is a valid point. But beyond that there is a another basic need to understand, ourselves,  and how we effect every interaction we have with others. Self awareness is fast becoming a top people skill taught in business schools and written about. It is one of many (non technical) people skills that are incorporated in Crew Resource Management training
It is the top dog, in so far as without it, it is hard to deal with any of the others.

What is it that you are told to do if the oxygen bags come down on a commercial flight?  Put yours on before trying to help others. Self Awareness...