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...

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.