N2 People Skills

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Train your Super Yacht crew, don’t let them be mistreated

If you own, or are thinking of owning a Super Yacht, Large Motor Yacht, or large Sailing Yacht and do not realize the importance of your crew's mental health and environment that they live and work in, then you should BE WARNED.

The posts on this forum from Dockwalk should alert you to the not so welcome environments that can grow from insufficient crew training and development of critical non-technical people skills. Environment affects behavior and behavior is a prime determinant of system functionality. Poor crew moral leads to problems that can stay hidden until it is too late to see the original problem and they become much larger problems or create larger problems.

When you put the comments from the Dockwalk  forum together with an older post on this blog, owners may see that poor crew resource management can create not only added costs in turnover, but added safety awareness, security issues, and last but surly not least, over all owner and guest experience.

Human behavior is closely linked to the environment we live in. Create an environment where your crew can develop, learn, lead and succeed, and guarantee you are well looked after. Stay with a "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" and play the lottery to safety and enjoyment.

Maybe it will be fine-
Or maybe it won't.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are you getting the Best from your people ? Improvement Direction

Many Super Yacht owners today would like to cut a few $$$'s from their running costs and make their  investment go a little further. Some may cut back on full time staff/crew/employees, or even their own time spent aboard. Others may try new ways of recovering some expenses by chartering their yachts, using ship transport to move their Yacht, considering skipping a minor repair or maintenance visit to a yard, or taking on the management of their Yacht themselves. Wherever you are on the scale, Super Yacht ownership is costly,  and one of the largest monthly expenses on your books is going to be your employee/staff/crew payroll

So what if you could  "Get the Best from your people" and cut costs, without cutting the end product (function), of service, safety and your experience.

We all know, that putting the the best individuals together does not necessarily mean they will create the best team, its about getting the best, and then helping them develop into the best team. Whether it is a football team or an orchestra, Corporate officers or Super Yacht crew, the answer is much the same. When it comes to the human factor and development, what is needed, amongst other things is opportunity to continually practice, inspiration, learning, autonomy, skills, and a good system to work in.

Even left to our own devices (humans) will constantly adapt and innovate to the environment they live in to survive.  Unfortunately this is not always in a positive direction. From Ponzi schemes or Enron's,  to not following standard operating procedures, to knowing the exact time to appear or disappear, we are innovative, whether it is doing less for more, or doing more for less, errors of commission or omission.

The secret is to make sure the direction is the one you want, and to keep checking that direction to validate that it is headed towards your vision. If you do not, human improvement will become a crap shoot to performance, and rolling those dice can have its consequences, as corporate chiefs and heads of BP and Goldman Sachs can attest.

Super Yacht crew training is traditionally based around technical skills, and are drilled for safety and procedure. But little time is spent on the soft side of training and development (non-technical skills), cognitive, basic skills required to live, work, and function together as an efficient team. These skills are the foundation of good management, not only in the work place but also at home (in this case aboard the Super Yacht). Captains and officers can be in deep water very quickly when dealing with 15 , 30 or more individuals that have received little training, or opportunity to develop these critical non-technical skills.
  • Communication
  • Self-Awareness
  • Situation Awareness
  • Leadership
  • Assertiveness
  • Decision Making
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
These have to be part of a healthy crew's 'skill toolbox', and should be constantly practiced and developed. For some this is hard to start, and development and change can lead them to regress into three successive pathologies: rule makers, naysayers, and innovation blockers:
"we have been operating like this for years and nobody has complained yet"
"we don't need anything to change"
"we do our job fine,  its that lot out there/in there, that have a problem"
" we don't have any problems, so we don't need any help"
" we just need a raise"
" we don't have time for training"
" we need better people to do a better job"
" a bit of training and development is not going to change anything"
" nobody else does this"
" we need people that can get along together"
" we tried this before and it didn't work"
" we see a problem but this will never work"
" this won't work because we have special issues"
" this is just too much work, we don't have time"
" how is everyone going to agree about this"
This is to be expected as many people are adverse to change, fortunately with training and development of the necessary skills this soon fades as you get the natural human need to improve, to work for you, not against you.

Is it a one time fix all, NO. As this months Harvard Business review writes.

Do you understand what’s required to become truly effective?

"Too often managers underestimate how much time and effort it takes to keep growing and developing. Becoming a great boss is a lengthy, difficult process of learning and change, driven mostly by personal experience. Indeed, so much time and effort are required that you can think of the process as a journey—a journey of years."

While it won't take years to get the best from your crew as a team, the development will show improving results over the years. 

This brings your crew to a new level because it focuses directly on them. By allowing the human aspect of your crew to shine through, you are encouraging them to do what comes naturally to them.

Don't overlook these all-important skills when evaluating areas of improvement for your crew and ways to improve cost efficiency. Find a way to incorporate non-technical skills (people skills) into your leadership development programs and see results immediately. Constantly getting the best from your crew,  requires constant development and guidance.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Superyacht charter, the good, bad and could be magnificent.

Celebrities such as  Hayden Panettiere, Roberto Cavalli, Angelina Jolie, Bono, President Sarkozy , Britney Spears, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, Tiger Woods and George Clooney amongst others, may  spend anywhere from $200,000.00 to one Million dollars per week for a relaxing time aboard their Yacht, or chartering a Super yacht.

Most super yacht crew that provide the million dollar service looking after guests personal needs and safety aboard, are top notch professionals, well trained, and have a good command of people skills. The best of the best in the service industry. They have top level technical skills and qualifications to match to be able to run these large technical Super Yachts in a very professional manner. All this, and they live and work together in tight quarters performing in efficient teams.

When owners, or charter guests are aboard they are truly getting the best money can buy,  well most of the time. But there is always the other side of the coin, the bad pennies or rotten apples.

As the saying goes: All that glitter is not always gold, and interviews such as this one from the respected company  ‘The Yacht Report Group’ in their magazine ‘The Crew Report’ may have the above mentioned celebrities, and other Superyacht owners thinking a bit more about what goes on below decks.

Where there's smoke, there's fire.

There are many excellent, highly respected professionals out there working on some of the biggest most beautiful and costly Yachts in the world.  It is sad to think that some may leave the industry because of a few. A few crew that may just need some people skills development.

Crew have many resources available to them, but the most important and most valuable to them, and the super yacht owners are themselves, and their fellow crew members. Investing in a good crew is smart, making sure they have the skills required, and opportunity to grow, that is just good business sense. As Harvard Business Review puts it:
"Engage your staff — leverage their expertise, involve them in decisions and remind them of the shared responsibility to pull the organisation through the crisis".
 Or from Career Journal
"Studies by Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation among Fortune 500 CEOs found that 75% of long term job success depended on people skills and only 25% on technical skills."
Getting employee engagement works,  investment in crew development of people skills pays big dividends back into the workplace. With more crew getting pulled into the industry through articles like this from CNN the time for owners (especially charter yacht owners) to look a little deeper into their workforce and get involved may be soon.

Charterers have a broad list of Yachts to choose from today,  many newly launched Yachts become available to charter on their first season adding to charter competition, that and the options of partial ownership makes for a much harder charter market. Having the best, (and the same) crew aboard pays.

Good, bad or magnificent - Growth, or more of the same, owners choice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Right Crew for you- Why, What, How, What if ?

"The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
-Mark Twain

Why is the right crew important
To some having a group of people around to look after them, is like a breath of fresh air, to others just the thought of more people to deal with can feel overbearing. Whichever the case, super yacht ownership comes with the necessity of having crew, and the affect of that crew being the right, or  almost the right crew, can be the difference between an enjoyable ownership experience, or a burdensome one.

Technical skills and qualifications are a prerequisite for Superyacht crew, if you want get off the dock and enjoy the feel of your yacht as you cruise the oceans of the world, then you need a crew with the right qualifications. But technical skills and qualifications do not guarantee that the group of individuals you employ will turn into the right crew for you personally, or for that matter the right people for each other.  Almost the right crew can end up being costly, in time, money, quality of experience and the depreciation of value of your investment. From extra costs and stress caused by crew turnover to added costs associated with accidents and incidents caused by human error (poor crew resource management skills), and the unfortunate scenario (if they have not developed the necessary skills) of having to avoid the very people that you pay to look after you!

One seasoned Super Yacht owner wrote of a friend:
"building a 330-foot power boat so he can not only escape encounters with the crew, but also avoid guests". 
After spending $10 to $100 million on a Yacht, you should not have to think about escaping encounters with your own paid crew. The right crew know when you don't want to see them, before you do,  and then be the ones that keep your guests entertained so you do not even have to think about avoiding them.

What is the right crew
The 'right crew' is a crew that has your best interests at heart, a team that is constantly looking for ways to learn, improve themselves, and your experience aboard, one that manages and optimizes their resources to keep costs down without cutting results or safety, one that works to raise safety and awareness while putting your interests at the top of the list, whether you are aboard of not. The right crew works to be as cost efficient as possible while providing the very best personal service available. This is a crew living in a leaning organization.

How to get the right crew
Whether you buy your yacht and then head to the shipyards for a refit, or you find your designer and builder to draw, and finally build your vision of perfection, it is also important to consider the development of your crew as a necessity of fitting your purchase to your personal tastes. You may have a crew that is good,  (like a suit or dress of the rack) but the difference between good and great is up to the crew and their continued development into the 'one of a kind' crew for you, (designed, measured and built for you).

While many an Owner have weathered 'almost the right crew' to tell the tales, such as the 330 foot motor yacht owner mentioned above,  many never get that far, or even realize there is another way?

Humans need to develop and learn skills to deal with the complexities of cohabiting a small space while working together. Crew will have to learn how each owner's preferences  (along with their own and each others) will be different, and then develop systems and skills to become the right crew for that owner.

Because a small misunderstanding, a communication error, or just a basic lack of knowledge in people skills can have escalating effects due to the complex interdependencies of life aboard.  The old solutions of  replacing resources (new crew) just adds a delay to more of the same result further down the road (and adds unnecessary cost) to become insidiously invisible errors of omission.  As  Systems Thinker Russell Ackoff wrote:
"The more  managers continue to try to get rid of what they don't want, the less likely they are to get what they do want."
With training and development of new skills  innovative approaches will surface from your crew as they become involved and engaged as a team, they will create a learning environment that encourages new skills in personal development to become the right crew for you.

 What if the right crew is my crew
Getting the 'right' crew for your Yacht is more than just picking employees to fit your yachts technical requirements, it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a matter of providing an environment for your crew to learn, grow, and share their mental models. Progress requires exploration and exploitation of differences between crew, and between officers and their Captain's.

Further development of personal skills is not new, the business world calls it 'Business Education' or 'Executive Education' and they use management training programs to empower individuals, and organisations so they can perform at their very best. Getting the right crew involves engagement at all levels, being part of the system, not outside it, and the best systems produce the best results.  What you experience aboard will depend on the skills and development of your crew. The crew you have today or the crew you will have tomorrow.
"The team that became great didn’t start off great-it learned how to produce extraordinary results.”
-Peter Senge

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What is a healthy corporate culture and how would you go about building and maintaining one?

I answered this question on Linkedin  and wanted to share my answer here as I look at the Superyacht as a small organization.

"Mine would be one that understood the people that worked in it and one that the people understood each other. 

The word culture comes from the Latin word 'Cultura' "growing", a healthy culture is one that grows with the change of time, its workforce, and environment it lives in. In today's world of mixed cultured workforces, and call for corporate transparency, you must understand the people that are going to be making up your Corporate or organizational culture. The Corp or Org (SUPERYACHT) should go beyond the normal corporate thinking of fitting the person to the post and stopping there. It should go out of it's way to understand their employees and enable their employees to understand themselves better, (MBTI is a great tool for this) as individuals learning their strengths and weaknesses. Then and only then will the culture propagate itself on the idologies of the Corp (such as openness, trust, engagement and learning). 

The healthy Corp is one that fosters these things and understands that to produce the required outcome, whether it is product, produce or profit, the culture will be made up of people in units of teams that interact with other units of teams, (just as villages and towns and cities make countries) , these units make bigger teams that make the corporation and they need one another to reach the overall goal. By leaning who we are as individuals, and sharing our own individual cultures, we build stronger teams, better products and innovative ways to reach corporate or organizational goals, enabling the whole to exceed the sum of its parts. 

If we are to work in Corporations and Organizations and they are going to be healthy then we need to look after the parts and the interactions of those parts. To do this you must be open to learn, be given tools and training to use them and chances to learn, fail, learn, and grow. To be healthy". 

Whether a Company or Super Yacht, the pieces that enable these to be efficient and healthy are human factor pieces. What you get out is up to the employees (human factor), whether it is 10% or 90% engagement, good, bad , exceptional or unremarkable performance is up to them. How do you change this from being a roll of the dice ? Have a healthy corporate culture.

  Getting the intricate puzzle of human interrelationship to work well  is time consuming and can not be rushed, it must be adaptable so it can be taken apart and put together again with different pieces.

We have very different minds but many common problems, Human nature, Culture and Personality must all be considered in developing a healthy developmental training program that grows to become a healthy Corp culture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Accidents happen because of idiots and stupidity coupled with no common sense?

 I have also been blogging on Dockwalk as the audience there seems to be a quite interactive.  I think it is  good to try to get some different perspectives on things, and as my previous blog (Operating with amateur crew?) attracted some attention, I wanted to post my reply to it here as well. There is a link HERE if you are interested in viewing some sure to be interesting comments on this as well.

So here it is:
On a previous blog  "Operating with amateur crew?"

Capt Kaj said:
"Accidents happen because of idiots and stupidity coupled with no common sense. You can´t teach these traits in a classroom sadly, the human nature factor kicks in again.."

OK so for arguments sake, lets look at 'Common Sense'  in a Thesaurus.  It is described with words as Judgment and perception. Now if you start to look at different ways of looking at things, (perception), and also the different lenses we use when making decisions (judgment) you may start to see that while it may not be possible to teach traits, it most certainly is possible to train and develop skills and knowledge to understand traits.

We all have our preferences, or traits, and these traits are both discoverable and learnable, they also have everything to do with Perception and Judgement .

Looking at problem solving as an example we will see some big differences in preferences:

 PROBLEM - A Charter Guest wants a PWC in the water now.The Mate is normally there to coordinate launch, but is ashore. (There is some poetic license being used I know, just go with it if you can)

Two different lenses: DECKHANDS (A) and (B)

(A) and (B)

(A) Has a preference of wanting to be thoroughly grounded in the facts analyzed in a logical framework. This person looks at day to day operations as their bedrock, is thorough, exacting,systematic,and careful with detail.

(B) Has a preference of wanting to consider values and the impact on people by identifying a future vision. This person looks to please people, is interpersonally focused, understanding, tolerant and a facilitator of good communications.

Depending on the problem, each of these people, not knowing their own preference style in depth, can look like they have no common sense to others, while the other may look like they are on top of things, and full of common sense.

How do they differ in dealing with this problem?

(A)- Knows that to get the PWC launched it takes three people to do this, and one of these people is always the Mate = (A) informs guest  that because Mate is ashore they will be awhile before the PWC is ready. = Result, unhappy guest.

(B)- Knows that the while the mate is normally there to do this launch, the Chief is aboard and will help out to launch the PWC if asked. = (B) Goes explains issue to Chief and PWC is launched with three crew, Chief instead of Mate. = Result, happy guest.

Why the difference, is it because (A) has no common sense  and bordering on stupid, while (B) is on top and has used his brain ?


Here is the same scenario, maybe different circumstances:

(A) Knows that there is a problem that when the mate is ready to be picked up, they will be short handed to watch the guest in the PWC, and so makes his decision. Guest is still not happy, but he is safe.

(B) Knows this too, but feels that it will be OK to pop ashore and let a Stew keep an eye out while he picks the mate up, (B) is concerned about Guest happiness over safety. Guest is Happy but not safe. Stew was too busy with her stuff and did not keep an eye out for guest.

Now who is looks like they have no common sense and bordering on stupid?

Again really neither. Both are just looking at the same problem through very different lenses with no real thought that there is another way (at least not as easy as their way) at looking at things.

Until (A) and (B) understand their own and other preferences, this scenario will continue to happen. When they understand their own preferences they can start to modify their behavior and understand the other side of the dichotomy, then they can use their strengths and understand their weaknesses. We all have them, and we can only be as strong as our weakest link. Understanding your own preferences is the first step to knowing your weakest link, then you can work on how to strengthen it.

There are 4 sets of dichotomies that can make up 16 different types, each have different strengths and weaknesses, each deals with stress differently and each deals with communication, leadership, assertiveness, Self awareness, situation awareness, adaptability, analysis-event and mission, flexibility and decision making differently. When you start to understand these differences in perception and judgment you can start to deal with life and work in much more efficient ways.

What is needed as the industry grows, is perhaps not only more experienced crew, but more importantly a better understanding and better development in the Human Factor, how it affects and effects communication, leadership, assertiveness, self awareness, situation awareness, adaptability, analysis-event and mission, flexibility and decision making (basically Crew resource management).

Thoughts ?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Superyacht ownership-hidden costs

Hidden costs of owning a Superyacht can come in an assortment of packages:

Crew Turnover, Accidents, Poor Charter Bookings, Non Return of Charterers, Insufficient or Poor Maintenance and Insufficient Training and Development of Crew. The Human Factor.

Owning any high value item normally means the cost of maintenance is relative to the cost of the initial purchase price. In the Oct issue of 'the Crew Report' there is an interesting article on 'PAINT PRESERVATION'. It notes that a full paint job can cost in the Millions of Euros.  As the cost of not maintaining something will normally be well above the savings that are gained by not doing the maintenance in the first place, it is (somewhat) surprising that while browsing at an International Boat Show I found so many examples of, hidden costs of ownership.

Viewing a scupper from the dock
The picture above shows signs of maintenance required, (this on a Yacht for sale and charter), and while this yacht had a refit three years ago, you have to ask, what else needs attention?  The picture  below (left) shows just a frayed warp, and while it may not be a hazard yet, what happens when the situation changes to needing that extra few pounds of hold before the line reaches its limits, and parts?
Frayed Spring line
Aft swim deck door
The picture below (right) shows a seal that might warrant a good look also, since in a following sea it would most lightly be underwater.

So while crews today are certified, technically trained and even have a certain amount of standard operating procedures to follow,  high turnover and little training in crew resource management ( human factor and human behavior, non-technical skills) have started to show in the Superyacht industry, in accidents, incidents, and places as these, missed maintenance. What ever the reason for missed maintenance, the pictures emphasizes the fact that invariably small slowly grows to big if not addressed. What others problems are there within, in interrelationships issues, safety and beyond is another question.

The commercial shipping industry has seen its fair share of poor maintenance and have made the link to the human factor and safety. Surprisingly, a little in front of us as we see them launch whole web sites focused on the Human Factor ('ALERT' is one). Books on the subject are also available that have examples of shipping accidents and how they relate to the human factor and how to try to stop them recurring, a small excerpt here  (pdf on Human factor in shipping)  might have the Superyacht owner thinking about their multi-million $ investment, and crew, a little differently.
Whether poor maintenance is owner/cost driven or it is lack of awareness on the crews part, it  is an easy trap to be get into. 'The Boiled Frog syndrome". If you start a frog in a pot of room temperature water,  slowly bring the water to boil, the heat relaxes the frog until he is drowsy, and then, too late, he is boiled! Whereas if you were to just drop him straight into a pot of boiling water, he will try to jump out of the pot. Humans as the frog, are geared towards sudden threats, not slow gradual ones. We wait, and then try to react.
Maladaptation is part of the human factor, as yachts have become increasingly more complex to run and more expensive to own, crews have been asked to do more with less, it has become a case of being in 'The Boiled Frog syndrome'.

While some larger yards are offering technical training for crew on systems and safety, high crew turnover can unfortunately negate the effectiveness of their efforts and expense. One Yard  told me that they have seen crew come and go even before the vessel has been launched, (nobody said it was going to be easy living and working together).
We have slowly warmed the water on crew and the systems they live in. Owners look to their crews and management companies to look after their safety and their investment, and while many do a great job, the ones that do not, (just as a bad apple), will have an affect on those that do (crew turnover).

It has become hard to see the trees for the forest, or the forest for the trees.  A small rust spot can grow into a larger breakdown of metal, a worn line can get worn and frayed until it breaks, a seal gets old, misaligned and not replaced,  because it has not leaked yet. A crew member gets fired because they get sick, leaving the remaining crew disgruntled, and less lightly to spot human error.

The Human Factor.
When a new crew is put together, each may well be the best in their field, but that means little if they fall apart before they have had the chance to come together, to function as the top class crew they were hired for, and are capable of being. The human factor is at the foundation of most financial investments, whether $13 or $50 or $100 million, an investment needs attention. The lack of training and development of non-technical skills (crew resource management),  is inattention to detail. When the price of a stock drops a few cents, the overall effect on a company or investment can be in the $Millions.

While no one intentionally sets out to commit an error, it is human error that can be missed and cause accidents, incidents and loss of value.
"The eye sees a great many things, but the average brain records very few of them"                                                                                      -Thomas Edison
Training and development in technical skills will gets you out to sea, but you need the non-technical skills to complete and balance your crew, so they can keep you, and your investment, safe, keep $ value and (ROI) of your Superyacht, and make sure the human factor stays out of the picture to negate those hidden costs.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

After the Ebb tide must come the flood

In the past two years the Superyacht industry has had to deal with some sloppy weather. Owners and brokers have had to adapt. As quickly as a stock can go up or down in value in the market, the flood and ebb in Superyacht price has not been far  behind. Drops in the $Millions in Superyacht  price tags have been seen far and wide, seemingly keeping up with how crew turnover has been in the industry, and most lightly causing some.

But just as the Superyacht prices fluctuate, so do owners, on the one side you have some that have become over extended financially and have had to leave the industry either for good or for (we hope) a short period, while on the other there are new Superyacht deals being done as new owners try their luck in this fickle industry.

As I walk the docks of the Ft Lauderdale boat show and speak to some Yacht builders, insurance brokers  management companies and crews, the news is as varied as the the Yachts and crew, some sparkling and vibrant and others not quite so. The evidence is there for all who care to look, in the small details. A line frayed, a chip in the paint, a crack on the hull, a uniform worn, chrome that is not polished. The signs are there, this is a "Boat Show" effort put in, (or not) is a sign of the times to come, whether it is in the value of the charter or yacht. It is all in the details and how the parts interact.

On the other end of the scale, the warm and jubilant.  Superyachts being show in all their glory, crews looking their normal professional and adaptable selves, there to be seen. Sparkling and wondrous, yachts and models of new builds are inspiring to ones imagination of places to visit. One owner unveiled an impassioned vision, and soon to be reality of an environmentally conscious development with its own marina, complete with an address that allows you to pop next door (by sea) to Sir Richard Branson's for some sugar.

So as the tide ebbs and floods the Yachting industry does so as well, neap times and flood times, depending on where you are in the world depends on your tide, and being conscious of the tide is important, vital, in some places. So builders find new ways to try to keep prices in check, and brokers find new ways to sell Superyachts, and perhaps owners will look to find new ways to keep their running costs down through getting their crew longevity up and accident rate down.

Today I shall meet with the Cayman Islands shipping registry and chat about crew longevity, Crew training, crew development and the MLC 2006.

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...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Super Yacht crew - Communication

We each grow up in very different surroundings,   we take and leave some of our parent's culture with us on our own voyage of discovery. Through formal education and travel we add and subtract opinions and views of the world. How we deal with everyday chores and how we interact with others, how we look at any given situation, for each of us becomes our own way, our own preferences and part of our personality.

Figure 1.0.A system of cognition, its parts that affect each other, that together produce an effect that is different from the effect of each part on its own. The effect, the behavior over time, persists in a variety of circumstances.

We don't look at things the same way. It is impossible unless you can see through the eyes of another person (physically). The closest we may get to that is at the movies, and if you read several different reviews of the same movie, you will quickly see that even though we may see the same thing (movie), we all perceive and process the information differently. So not understanding each other very well, even when speaking the same language, is not as rare as you may think (80% of maritime accidents are contributed to human error).

A Super Yacht can have anywhere from 8-60 crew (many times from different countries and cultures), and of mixed age and sex,  add this with the fact that humans spend 70% of a working day in some form of communication, with approximately 65% of this is non verbal communication, and you start to see the value of understanding the different ways individuals and teams prefer to take in information, process it, and how this can make a big impact on safety, risk management, and service levels.

Starting at about two O'clock, (see Fig 1.0) you see 'Focusing Attention' in the 'Outer World' and the 'Inner World'. These are referring to  Extraversion and Introversion, your general attitude and energizer. At five O'clock you see 'Receiving and Perception', taking in your information. At seven O'clock  you have 'Making decisions.' You have information and need to make a decision, what to do with the information, or what to do because of it. At eleven O'clock you have 'Living in the World,' what ever it is you have decided, how do you go about it in the world.
You think that because you understand "one" that you must therefore understand "two" because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand "and."
                                                                                                                   ~Sufi teaching story
The simplified and basic look at a system of cognition (Fig 1.0) shows elements dealing with the function of communication, its process and parts, preferred and non preferred. What it does not show, is how these elements interact, are interconnected with each other and the relationships that hold the elements together, or the individuals preferences. The interconnections in the system are physical flows and chemical reactions that govern our moods, emotions and actions. Neurons, cells in the brain are involved in the reception, integration, and transmission of signals (the interconnections). But before we go and loose sight of the forest for the trees, lets go back to the function of communication aboard the Super Yacht, more specifically communication in Super Yacht Crew Resource Management.

Communication & CRM
The functions are:
  • To convey information.
  • To establish interpersonal and team relationships.
  • To establish predictable behavior and expectations.
  • To maintain attention to task and situational awareness.
  • To act as a management tool.

These are integral to safety, service and efficiency on board the Super Yacht. For these functions to work and be used correctly it is necessary to make sure that we understand not only how the parts interact together, but how our systems, as individuals and as a team work together. A system is more than the sum of its parts.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Scottish SuperYacht crusing

Weather (mistake and pun intended) it is a popular hangout or not in the Superyacht circuit,  it most certainly is a beautiful one. I can not imagine a better place to spend a Summer, in what one would assume is one of the quieter places to hang while on your yacht, Scotland.  I wonder if they went back this year ?

This is when your crew may really be put to the test as to whether (correct spelling) they can get along with each other, keep on top of things and provide that top service. Not the place you would want to be looking for a new Stew, Deckhand or Engineer. While Le Grand Bleu  is not looking too ready to attend an evening anchored of Cannes, St Tropez or Monaco, if Mr Shvidler was indeed aboard, it is great to see an owner going out and exploring more of the world than the standard circuits.

I would think an interesting Charter location for a summer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Super Yacht Captain and Chiefs go at it!

Heated discussion re Chiefs on the Super Yachts vs merchant and then some. Is this a poor example of what it going on under the Owners nose, or a good example of a need for crew resource management.

The posts here  http://www.littleurl.net/9cfc  (you don't have to read all of them to get the gist), show a mixed bag of feelings and a lot of fixed mindsets. It gets one wondering, if this is going on, be it only in a small way on a few Yachts, is it not a good topic to talk about ? As crew turnover is relatively high, sooner or later some of this fixed mindset will get aboard bringing error with it. As Crew Resource Management is about people skills:
Situation Awareness.
Event,mission analysis.
And Yacht owners rely on their Captain and Management company to keep their lives and investment safe, poor people skills can let human factor creep in and human error can quickly become front and center.

In his paper 'A Mixed Crew Complement' Jan Horck (http://hdl.handle.net/2043/5962) says "Maritime literature and maritime casualty investigation reports more and more findings that human relations on a ship, before an accident, were not as they should be according to good seamanship or/and social relationships. Bad relationships have often been the result of bad communication, followed by misunderstandings rooted in lack of cultural awareness."

Awareness is paramount in good management, leadership and communication. Are these people skills being taught enough as Yacht size and so crew size grow ?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Super Yacht Crew -Undstanding the basics

Do you have all the bases covered ? Do you understand your preferred working styles and cognitive functions, and those of your fellow crew?
Do you know your strengths and stretches, and those of the other members of your crew?

If you understand these cognitive processes and know which functions are easier to access for you and others, then you are a long way ahead of those that have never put a thought to what different approaches a team may have, and how this may effect the outcome of any given situation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How ready is your Super Yacht Crew - Performance and input factors.

Is the interpersonal atmosphere aboard your Super Yacht conducive to a good working and living relationship ? If not there may be concern when the function of communication (that is at the heart of management) comes along.

Super Yacht crew's interpersonal atmosphere can be like cholesterol, there is good and bad cholesterol, neither can be seen without investigation, all can seem fine but underneath be quietly, slowly building until you have a clogged artery and you end up in the emergency room. In the case aboard with interpersonal atmosphere, it can all seem fine until it builds to a scenario that results in a situation. One that you or your crew may not be ready to deal with, have the people skills to deal with, or the time to deal with it. Worse case is that it creates a situation that causes over 80%  of accidents and incidents at sea, Human Error!

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are great when they are there to be read, learned and referred to. But when emotion is a cause of a clog, anger, annoyance, jealousy, insecurity, to name a few, SOP's can go out the window with good communication right behind them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another sad event in the Yachting world is it time for Yacht Crew Resource Management ?

Another sad event in the Yachting world as a crew member goes missing off Monte Carlo.William Black  (missing) With what looks like 2 Yacht crew deaths this Summer in the Med and one crew member getting his hands  crushed (these are  accidents reported)! Has this Summer just been a bad and unfortunate turn of events, or is it time to look at the industry and professional crew on Yachts, the system it's parts, function and behavior purpose ? Yachts their crews, owners, management companies and brokers.
Photo credit Marco Ravanello

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How does your Super Yacht crew perform ?

Did you get to design your crew around your needs and wants ?

Time to tweak that performance ?

Make sure they (your crew) have the training and development they need to bring their true potential out and raise the bar of your Super Yacht ownership experience, take ownership of your investment and sign up for SYCROM today.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Confidentiality on a Super Yacht & chartering ?

Personal electronics are abound and many Super Yachts have internet connections world wide. Add to that, high turnover of Yacht crew and it makes you wonder how long will it be until a comment or picture turns up on the internet, when its not wanted. SEE THIS

Does your yacht have a 'Crew Development Plan,' and so create 'yacht appeal' for crew to stay and grow with you.

Smart charterers may want to check out how long the crew have been together when looking at a $300k+ a week charter. And owners would surely see running costs go down as longevity goes up.

Are you covered ?

Start with a workshop and build to a full CDP .

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tragedy of super yacht crew death


First to be said, my sincere condolences to family and friends of the crew member.

A solution, better care to "scheduled maintenance" yes. But as the late Systems Thinker Russell Ackoff said in his book 'Systems Thinking for Curious Managers.” There are four ways of treating a problem- absolution, resolution, solution, and dissolution - and the greatest of these is dissolution"

"To solve a problem involves a change in behavior of the organization that has the problem, but leaves the nature of the organization or its environment unchanged"

Better scheduled maintenance, new cables maybe. (There are still other ways to fall.)

But to dissolve it is " to redesign the organization that has the problem or its environment so the problem is eliminated and cannot reappear."

Better maintenance and better adherence to policy and procedures a start, but with an open form of communication in Crew Resource management. Perhaps there was a sudden need to be riding the PWC while it is being lowered but with the type of sling that is shown in the picture of the PDF from Cayman I Reg, there is also risk of slippage, surely the idea is safety first, possible damage to vessel second.

This accident seems like it was preventable as are most accidents that are linked to the human element and human error. Better understanding or risks associated with equipment and the operation of heavy equipment and open communication, there is always someone whose risk tolerance is lower than others and they should feel open to speaking up.

Whatever the case in this accident it has happened and it is a sad day for all, but let us learn from it and pass those lessons onto others.

Again my sincere condolences,

Safe seas,

Simon Harvey

Friday, July 30, 2010

Economical Parking in London

You have to have a laugh in life every now and then, and this story in from the BBC is one that brought a smile to my face this morning.

I tweeted the link to it.

Don't you think that for about $100 the fine was more like a meter fee for the best parking in town (right outside Harrods). If your car is one of only 6 ever made, worth, according to the BBC, around 350,000 pounds sterling or more, and you needed to park it close to the shops, isn't right outside the store the best place.

70 Pounds for a safe (once clamped) and convenient (close to store) parking place, it's a London bargain!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Superyacht owners should look at this

The MLC 2006 - Has five major points it looks at :

  • Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
  • Title 2: Conditions of employment
  • Title 3: Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering
  • Title 4: Health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection
  • Title 5: Compliance and enforcement.

These are all important points that needed new input. But the reason they were looked into was more for the commercial side more than the Yachting industry. The Yachting industry as it is known today is about to change, for all that work in it, and are Employers in it, (Yacht Owners.)

The old days of getting rid of crew in a day because they were not living up to expectations are soon to be gone. Stories of crews being told they are all to be off the Yacht by the lunch will be put into the history books, and a new era of Crews that have been with their employer for years, not seasons, will hopefully begin.

There are many points in the MLC 2006 that have flexibility, and for any soon to be Yacht owner that is thinking of buying, or building a Super Yacht, you would be well advised in having your lawyer look at this document now, not after it has been ratified. There is going to be a lot of changes in how Yachts are supplied with crew, and where the pool of crew will be coming from.

YACHT crew of today would also be well advised to do the same, there is going to be new competition on the way from the other side of the maritime labor market. The commercial side which the yachting industry as far as the crew is concerned is soon to be a part of. All seafarers together. Working and competing together for the good jobs in the Maritime world.

Or maybe not, you make the call. But either way, anyone that makes their living in the Super Yacht world, or is an employer (Yacht Owner) would be advised to look at this document now before it is to late.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A fictitious scenario. Two deck crew and an afternoon with guests

Aboard a 50m Yacht.

Tim a deck-hand is an (I) introverted. He shares a cabin with Bob and (E) extraverted.

Tim and Bob were out in one of the tenders with Guests, Mr and Mrs Wave, wake boarding. Mrs Wave does not seem to stop talking, first about Mr Wave and how this was just his second time out, and that he was always so good at sports and everything he did, etc, etc, etc, ....................... So the conversation goes on for most of the afternoon, when it isn’t Mrs Wave chatting, it is Mr Wave who is talking to Tim. (Tim is the wake-boarding expert.)

Tim is in his element in the conversation (Mr Wave had asked for Tim to take them out to get some pointers) and interacts with the Wave’s who both have a preference for extraversion, and never seem to stop asking Tim questions and talking, a lot, and always to Tim!

This to Tim while enjoyable, (he loves wake boarding and teaching it) has been exhausting. Not physically, but psychologically. Tim has had to spend a lot of time out of preference, remember he is an (I). And as it happens so did Bob, he is the (E) and is hardly even acknowledged by Mr & Mrs Wave as they are absorbed by Tim and his knowledge.

So they head back to drop the Wave’s off for cocktails aboard. The tender needs a quick wash off and a chamois.

So here we have two possible ends;

(a) Two crew that have little, if any idea of self awareness and psychological type.

(b) Two crew that have been through our workshop and have learnt how different a situation can be from different perspectives and understand each others needs.


  • Tim just wants to chill out in his own way and Bob just wants to explode in conversation. They may both clean the tender up while Bob spends the whole time talking, “ I can’t believe they said this and that” etc,etc,etc. Tim meanwhile would like to tell Bob to shut up and ? At the end of it they are both annoyed at each other and still have to share a cabin. Nether really knowing why they are mad at each other, they just feel tired and annoyed.

Or. A better solution

  • As the Wave’s get aboard and Tim and Bob start to get things stowed, Bob asks Tim if he wants to wash the tender down and chamois it off on his own, (Bob understands that Tim needs to chill). Tim greets this with a smile and asks Bob if he would help one of the Stewardess’s that he was meant to help later (Tim knows Bob needs to talk). Bob is happy as this will give him the opportunity to chat about his day to another (E).

While this is only looking at one set of dichotomies, I hope it gives you a sense of how easily a situation can get misunderstood if we have a lack of self awareness and understanding of preferences.

I originally posted this on Dockwalk.com and did get one unfortunate reply from a more fixed mindset type of person.

See below;

who the hell would hire somebody who got exhausted by conversing with the guests, stopping them is the problem.