From Fighter Pilot to Airline Pilot: Lessons in Human Performance with Brandon Williams
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Safety is a cornerstone of the airline and aviation industry. Our guest Brandon Williams, founder of LeadTac, adjunct professor, F-15 fighter and airline pilot, started his career in the U.S. Air Force. Brandon highlights the importance of considering human factors and mitigating human error using a systems based approach. Listen to learn how to implement Human Factors Leadership and peer accountability to reduce human errors and improve safety performance.
To learn about Human Performance: https://www.propulo.com/hop/
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The Safety Guru Ep 26 – From Fighter Pilot to Airline Pilot Lessons in Human Performance with Brandon Williams
Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first, great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. But those companies’ safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the safety guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized ops and safety guru, public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? your legacy success story begins now.
Hi, and welcome to the safety guru. today. I’m very excited to have with me, Brandon Williams. Brandon is a results-oriented leader, a business speaker. And the reason we’re bringing him on the show today is he’s got some amazing experience. Back in the day he was in the US Air Force, f 15. fighter pilot has deep expertise in human factors, in fact, worked in the Air Force around safety is also a joint Professor on the topic of human factors, as well as a few others that are related to safety. So, Brandon, welcome to the show. Really happy to have you with me today.
Thanks, Eric. I appreciate it and humbled to be invited to be on the podcast. And always happy to talk about safety, human factors or leadership or any all the above. So, thank you. Excellent. So maybe why don’t you start in a little bit about some of your background as a fighter pilot, but also how it evolved into flight safety airline pilot in the passion you have for it? And particularly for this topic that’s so critical around human factors and understanding human error.
Absolutely. Well, I went to the United States Air Force Academy. So that’s where I got ever since I was a little boy, I want to be a pilot, I think. So, I come from the Atlanta, Georgia area, I still live here. Now my wife and two small children, by going to the Air Force Academy graduating out of there, went on to Air Force pilot training. And that was probably my first exposure to, you know, what, what we call hrs high reliability organizations. So, getting into that world, and that’s where it first started, I would say, whether you want to talk about my aviation experience, or flying or safety or anything like that, it really started there.
Go on Air Force pilot training went on to fly at 15 ease, like you said, I served 12 years active duty in that time, in addition to being a pilot, also was involved in flight safety. So, I went to the Air Force flight safety School, which qualified me to be a what they call a safety officer. So, every unit, every organization in the flying organization in the Air Force, has a safety officer whose job it is to, you know, maintain and monitor run safety programs, you’re qualified to do safety investigations or mishaps, so your part of a Safety Board, and you come up with recommendations and, and do all that. So that was really a fun experience getting to do that, and seeing a whole other side of that.
But also served in several leadership roles in my time in the military. You know, common misconception, I think is as fun as it would be just to fly airplanes. And that’s it, you know, military organizations like anything else. So, we still have budgets and programs and people to manage. And, you know, you name it all the no fun stuff, if you will. So, several leaders, several leadership roles, they’re leading people in organizations got out of active duty, like I said, after about 12 years, went into the Air Force reserves just part time. And at that time, I also was kind of at a crossroads of what I was going to do. Part of me wanted to go into the business world, start my own business, go into some kind of management, consulting, or even safety related and because I had that experience, turn, and the other part of me wanted to go be an airline pilot, and still start my own business. So that’s, that’s actually what I ended up doing. Kind of the best of both worlds, I guess.
So, I have been a pilot at a major airline for several years now. And also started I also got into actually management, consulting leadership development. Around that time, did that for about seven or eight years, still do that off and on involve workshops, keynote speaking, strategy, consulting, and then started my own business called lead tack, which is leading tactically, and that really involves taking the idea of human factors and a lot of those things we talked about, as in the air force training as a fighter pilot, how we operate in complex environments, and how that it’s kind of two sides to it. I go and I talk to businesses and companies and all different industries, just taking business leaders, how they lead from human factors perspective to how we can help them mitigate error in their teams, kind of taking those aspects of HR is higher. Lobby organizations and taking that to a business setting or any kind of team. And then also, I still stay in the human factor safety world. So, things we’re talking about, and how we establish, you know, these ideas of human factors, how we mitigate human error, all kinds of different stuff. I’m sure we’ll talk about some of it here. But it involves that too. And then for the last 10 years, I’ve also, as you said, I’ve also been an adjunct professor, where I’ve actually designed and built and I teach safety courses, human factors, courses, some other aviation courses and management courses. So, a lot of stuff going on. But you know, it’s awesome, because I think I’m the luckiest people in the world because I would get to wake up and kind of do, you know, a lot of stuff that I’ve always wanted to do. So that’s me and my background. And yeah, the Air Force gently set that up. And I mean, set the stage clearly for what I do now. That’s awesome. So, can you talk about human error? Can you share a little bit about that concept? Because I think when we first connect to the part that’s always impressed me is airline aviation has probably done the most leaps and bounds of any sector in understanding where human error is going to happen? And how do you reduce the risk of doing it? So, I started the airline industry as well, I got to see it firsthand. It’s a, it’s a very different mindset. So, talk a little bit about this concept of human error and how it transposes to businesses that often blame the individual as opposed to try to think about what’s the right thing? and air? We all make errors. We all make mistakes. Absolutely. You just set it there. Right? There are two errors human right. I mean, that’s what makes us human. Yeah, um, you know, a lot of times in modern society, and you hear people that want to fix human error by saying, well, we’ll take the human out of the process, put more technology into it, which don’t get me wrong, technology is definitely way to mitigate, Your Honor. Absolutely. However, you know, when you look at it from a human factor standpoint, and how you want to really reduce human error, the human is seen more as a as a variable that can actually affect change, for the better, if that makes sense by helping reduce human error. And there’s many different ways. That’s a simple way to put it. But that’s kind of my approach to what I call human factors, leadership. And like you said, the aviation world, I think, kind of, in a way led a lot of this. I mean, and I think the reason why that was the 1970s, early 80s, when the jumbo airliner was, you know, at its heyday, a lot of them were coming on, you would have an airline crash. And you think back to event, I just think anything about aviation, you know, the names of Tenerife, if you say that, you know exactly what that is referring to the major accident that happened there in the 70s. Yeah. And so that that accident actually is cited, a lot of times it’s kind of a water, and there was a few of those around that time, major aircraft accidents. And for those out there not familiar it was basically the world’s worst commercial airline disaster involve each aircraft colliding on a runway essentially, that’s for people that are 247. They couldn’t get bigger than that. Absolutely, but the astonished thing about that is there’s two things. So that is number one. Around that time, we realize our experts in aviation will realize Wait, guys, and we can’t afford and we cannot let you know, we can’t have a loss of life of 200, some 300, some 500 people, I mean, we got to stop what we’re doing. Something’s not right, because we’ve had aviation accidents since the beginning of aviation. Right. And the classic approach was like you were talking about the blame and train right, like, Well, clearly, the pilot made an error that was it, tell people not to do that, again, problem solved, right, go about your day. Well, around this time, we started realizing that’s not working. And we can’t afford to keep operating on this. And this is where the idea of, of human factors and how we mitigate human error from a systems-based approach Sure, really comes into play. And when I when I say systems based, I mean, instead of the blame and train approach, focusing on the one individual human error, as you know, and people in your world know, mishaps don’t just happen because of one decision, there is a chain of events that lead up to a mishap. So, a system-based approach is looking at the entire system. So, the or, and how that’s how we may define that. That’s the organization, the culture, the leadership, the resources, the and as far as the Human Factors part, the actual state of that human being. So, you’re talking psychological factors, fatigue train, I mean, there’s so many different things that go into that. And so how do we mitigate that? And so big picture, what my model does, and what human really does the study of human factors is, is looking at mitigating human error from a systems-based approach. So how do we put those stop gaps in the system? Because that because rarely, I mean, if ever in our society now, professional organizations, does anybody show up to work and speak.
I’m not going to bring a game today. I’m not going to I’m not going to do that just does it really happen? I mean, there’s sure there’s isolated cases, but that just typically doesn’t happen. So, when we talk about bad apples, or we talk about, you know, bad performers or bad actors, a lot of times that’s, that’s human error. And that’s not mitigate. And that’s any industry. It’s not just high reliability or high reliability organizations. Yep. It’s not just safe aviation. It’s not just the medical world, it’s, you know, any kind of business or any kind of team you lead. And like you said, the aviation world kind of led that because I think we were kind of forced to, because it gets a lot of attention when you crash an airplane, unfortunately, medical world, which they have caught up and they’re doing better, they’re still behind us a little bit. But, you know, hospital, sadly, I mean, you expect people to, unfortunately pass away in a hospital. So, it didn’t really get the attention that it deserved. And I think when medical kind of the health, health, health and medical world kind of caught up with that and said, hey, look at what, you know, the aviation rules, look at what the military and the aircraft carrier look at what they do look at nuclear power industry is another what they do, you know, why can we not take some of these in there, and they’re doing that now, they’ve been doing that for a while, but it’s getting there. But anyway, yeah, that the whole idea of human errors, like you said, and, you know, if you if you look up the definition of human error, it, it’s kind of one of those things, it’s like saying, how do you define leadership? Or how do you define culture?
You know, there’s so many studies on it, it’s probably one of the most, the best ways to describe it is it’s really an unintentional outcome based on human action, unintentional human action, even that one didn’t really capture it truly. But human factors in the idea of human factors leadership, what I do in the study of human factors is really looking at human error from a systems-based approach. That’s great. So, it gets into just culture, which is often linked in terms of themes. How do you create a just culture? What is it good jazz culture? And how do you start creating it?
Right, so adjust culture is really again, I talked about the blame and train approach to management or blame a train approach to mitigating human error, they just culture environment as a kind of the exact opposite of that. So, you instead of living in, in, in fear, a fear of retribution, fear of what can happen if we point out mistakes, or errors or gaps in the system, a just culture encourages that. And the whole idea behind that is because, sure, if you can’t identify those gaps, if we cover them up, or we don’t talk about them, or we don’t bring them up, well, then guess what I mean, bad things are going to happen. You know, you see this a lot in the business world still, because, you know, they may lose some money, but they’re not going to lose life, most likely, if these errors keep happening, and they, whether it’s, you know, your own self-preservation, you know, trying to protect loyalty, or loyalty to someone else, an organization to a team, you know, trying to just push through it, you know, you name it, you really don’t see this a lot. I mean, in organizations, businesses are so different their cultures, but you just don’t see this idea of just culture because that, again, I relate it back to flying in the air force, and a fighter squadron, you know, what I call it a just culture. In terms of, you know, there was this idea, this environment, that every time after we landed, every time after we flew a mission, we went in a room, we conducted what’s called an open, honest debrief. You know, like I talked about the difference between a debrief and investigation or difference between a just culture and a culture that looks at investigation. So again, you know, what is an investigation? You know, you’re trying to find blame, you’re trying to assign blame to someone, right? Well, just culture is just the opposite, that we’re not we’re not Nestle concerned about the blame. Yes, we want to fix it, we want to find the root cause. But we’re concerned about, you know, fixing the system, right? Again, going back to a system-based approach, how do we find those errors? How do we find those gaps in systems so that the team or whoever else does this next time doesn’t, doesn’t make the same mistakes, the same errors, the same ideas, and establish and adjust culture? Going back to that? You know, how do we do that? Well, there’s several ways I talked about when I work with my clients, but, you know, it’s like anything else? Where does most stuff always start any kind of change, especially when you have the word culture starts at the top? Right? So, when you have team leaders, leaders of an organization, you know, C suite types VPS, you know, you name it, and even especially, and I think even more importantly, informal leaders because I think a lot of times, they have more influence than to those formal leaders, for sure. You know, when those leader whoever is in those leadership positions, whatever in everybody’s leader, in some sense, like I was saying, when you step up, and you can admit your shortcomings and you can see that when you go and go in a room and you talk about what went wrong, when people see you take that, that feedback or when you admit your own errors, or you even more so when somebody you know, someone in your team, you know, has some missteps or whatever, when we don’t we there’s no retribution, but we say, Okay, let’s find out why this happened. And it’s not Eric’s fault. Let’s find out what was going on that day. So, we look at the environment, you know, maybe Eric, you know, wasn’t on the right team, maybe his teammates that were assigned to him were way too inexperienced for this, this job or this project? Maybe Eric wasn’t getting all the information he needed. You know, maybe Eric has some, you know, personally, she’s going at home affecting his his personal stat, you know, because that’s a huge, huge part of human factors is, you know, a lot of times what we miss, especially in the business world, that I found exactly opposite of what I experience in the military is we just show up and work with each other, and we have no idea what is going on in someone else’s life.
You know, outside of work, which, you know, not that you’re trying to pry, right, it’s getting to know people it’s getting and that goes back to other stuff that that we may or may not get into here later, is when you talk about mutual support and morale and everything like that, how do we establish that it’s really about getting, you know, how you drive this culture of mutual support, and getting to know everyone you work with peer accountability, all that kind of stuff, but it just culture really centers around, you got to see leaders that establish that you got to see leaders that are support that so someone brings something up, you know, we’re, we’re going to take that input, we’re going to fix the system, we’re not going to blame and train the person. And the other way, you know, when I when I put a slide up, last thing, I’ll talk about just culture, when I talk about it to a group, I’ll typically have a slide and it’ll say, three words on or three ideas. One is decentralized execution. One is pure accountability. And the other is that open honest debrief I talked about, you’ve got kind of arrows pointing to all of them. And the reason those are all important, I talked about the open honest, deeper, if that’s where we get our feedback loop, right. That’s where we get the where we did have our missteps, how we’re going to fix it. decentralized execution is leadership backed autonomy. So that trust you’re putting out as a leader, so people know that you have their back. Because we all know that one of the biggest motivating factors is autonomy. And then finally, pure accountability, which is the idea that it’s not the bad word accountability, where bosses are running accountability, but the idea that, you know, that mutual support idea that where I’m not going to do a bad job, not because, you know, I don’t want to look bad. I mean, that is one of the reasons but also, I don’t want to like Eric down, I don’t let the team down. If I don’t do my job or my role, then that looks bad on Eric. And I know, Eric, I know his family. I don’t want him to, to suffer for that. So, you know, he has these three main parts that goes into Joe’s culture, you know, a lot of things that go into that. But that’s kind of the big picture behind it, if you will, yeah. And I think you brought out a lot of really important points. And I want to double click on your peer accountability comment, I get that comes up a lot of conversations I have with the boardroom level. It takes a lot, though, to create the psychological safety for people to speak out. Like I remember the airline industry, pilots are comfortable raising issues. It’s like I fell asleep, we both fall asleep. And a raise those themes, so something can get done. A lot of businesses, I remember one organization, a mining organization, he had mining, you know, those huge trucks on the periphery of an open pit, and they would regularly tumble down regularly, maybe a couple times a year. Right. And it happened for several years, because nobody actually had the comfort to say, I blinked I fell asleep. Right, which is something that you’d have as a given in the airline industry. Is that comfort to share those things? Because otherwise nobody would know same as in that truck. Nobody knew what happened. There’s only one operator there. So how do you create that?
Well, you know, going back to the Well, first of all, again, I’ll go back to you’ve got to have leadership buy in on it. Okay, so you can’t just say, hey, from now on, when you point out stuff, I’m not going to you know, let’s point out to be open, honest. I mean, we see we see that cheap, right? I mean, you see that all the time, where, Hey, open door policy, you told me anything. And then next thing, magic as you, you know, you told him this wasn’t a good idea. So that’s the first thing is Who do you have, you know, in certain roles that are going to establish and allow that autonomy, right? Right. Because, you know, allowing that autonomy, knowing that my superior whoever that may be, has my back, if they’re going to allow Give me that decentralized execution authority, that ability to go and make autonomous decisions. That’s the first thing. Because when we know that people have our back, you know, what, I think we’re more willing to admit, we’re more willing to drive that peer accountability, if you will. Because we know that someone trust us to do this. Therefore, I’m going to do the best I can and I want my team to do that way. So, I’m going to drive some that appear accountable.
The other thing I go back to is I think about pure accountability in a flying organization in the military. So, I think about kind of fighter squandered right now, we talked about the military.
You know, a lot of people think, Oh, well, the military, you know, you did it, because you were told to your order to do stuff, you know, everybody. Okay? Well, yes, we do have a rank structure. And that’s where a very important reason in a military unit, however, first of all, I don’t ever remember being you know, like, in the movies, you see, you know, ever being told or ordered, you know, you will do this right, order you to do this. I mean, we don’t, right. I don’t think we’ve had firing squads in the military for several year, you know, you know, things like that, for years, I think. So, I think back on it, and there was just this idea this, this kind of couldn’t put your just put your finger on it, that and this is flying or non-flying, like I said, we had many jobs we did outside of flying, you know, running in the organization, running programs, you know, things like that. So, when I think back on it, I say what was it? And I think it goes back to this idea, again, that, because of how we train the idea of mutual support, right, established through morale, and again, getting to know people, because a lot of times in the military, you know, at least in a flying Squadron, the people you work with a lot of times the people you play with to so you, you naturally got to know these people, and these are the people you got to work with, you know, their families know their kids.
And so, you build that camaraderie morale, which helps enforce that peer accountability, because it’s not the kind of accountability where you’re, hey, do this or else, it’s the kind of accountability that you’re saying, you’re picking somebody up, because when they’re having a bad day, or when they’re having a misstep, you’re going to step in, provide that mutual support. Because you, because you want them one day to help you out as well. I mean, you want them to see that, because you’re going to have your days as well. So, I think it all goes back to number one, starting at the top, you know, talk is cheap, make let them see you do that. Let them see you support people, let them see you take accountability for your own actions as a leader as well, because I mean, there’s nothing more demoralizing though later than either a can admit when they’re wrong, or even worse, will blame their team for someone they’re wrong. And so, you know, that that’s the first thing. And then the second thing is establishing that, that mutual support within organizations establishing that idea of camaraderie, and, you know, the idea of morale and how we get to know each other. And there’s simple things, just one example. I mean, you know, now, with a lot of people working remotely, and business organizations, especially, you know, it’s a little tougher, we have to make a little bit more of an effort to do that. But even we weren’t working remotely, let’s be honest. I mean, you go to the office, go to your job, I mean, you may see somebody at the watercooler or something like that, right. But it’s like, you know, when you have some time, you know, detach. Nobody likes Mandatory Fun, but encouraging these, you know, whether it’s gotten togethers in the office, or just take 1520 minutes, get the team together and just talk about non-business-related stuff. I mean, Hey, how’s it going? What’s going on your life? You know, what’s, how are things going, I heard your dad was in the hospital, how’s that, you know, things like, I mean, getting to know people, and really establishing that, that, that core or know each other. And then the other thing, I’ll bring an exam from the airlines, one thing we’ve done is basically voluntary reporting. And it’s not even necessarily anonymous, um, we call them Aviation Safety action report. So, say something happens, right? And so, we say, you know, we’re flying along, and let’s say we miss an altitude or missile radio call, and we catch it and nothing bad really happens. We keep going about our day, right? Well, back in the day that have been Okay, great. Let’s just keep going. You know, nobody knows about it. Right? Well, now, not only is it you know, it’s encouraged to say, Hey, you know, report that put those up in one way. It’s, it’s, it’s encouraged by saying, hey, look, if you report this and come forth with this, you know, now say you make a make a minor missed out, or make good, a major misstep. And you put this report in, you’re essentially, you know, you’re kind of raising your hands and hey, look, I messed up, here’s what happened. Here’s what we did. And so now with all the data that are on airplanes, so they can see everything we do, almost, I mean, they get all this data that comes back, they can monitor another key point of safety program. When they when you come back and say, hey, look, here’s where we messed up, your kind of fessing up, you know, right away saying, look, we’re not trying to hide this. Here’s that. So, it’s almost like, you know, we’re not going to come down on you for something like this, especially if you report now, if there’s willful disregard different termination. I mean, that’s a different story. But for the most part, all these are and we get 1000s in my own company, we get 1000s and 1000s of these per year of pilots reporting mistakes there and it’s not anonymous. I mean, they see your name they see you know, who it who did it, but it’s a great reporting for him because what it’s done is it showed a lot of gaps in the system. So, they can fix the system. They can, you know, go back and so we don’t make those mistakes.
Good. But again, it’s about a culture that says, Look, if you can, if we can identify this stuff early up, you know, early on, when these things happen, you know, you’re not going to get slapped on the wrist for this, you’re not going to get any job action taken, obviously, again, you know, there’s a 1% if it’s willful, you know, disregard or something. Yeah.
I was exceptions, but for the most part, that’s one great example of how you, you kind of identify that and bring some of that pure Cambodian Yeah, and love you turn around peer accountability, because a lot of people see this as removing accountability, but it’s not it’s creating a different level, right? ability around it, right. And the reason I say that is because I think accountability gets a negative connotation times, you know, a lot of times it’s, I kind of call it the, you call it the vice print and vice principal approach, Vice Principal, and, you know, school was always kind of the, the hammer, the one that was always winning, right? So, when you think of accountability, always kind of think of advice principle that, you know, the one that’s do this, or else kind of approach, you know, if you don’t do this, you going to get fired or whatever. Versus peer accountability, which is that kind of accountability, that is, is maintained with your peers, your colleagues, even subordinates are superior. I mean, it doesn’t really matter rank. Right ci, again, IT systems-based thinking we’re all trying to accomplish the same mission, the same task.
The same objective, Harvard Business view, actually did a study where they said that in poor performing teams, there’s no accountability in mediocre teams, bosses drive accountability, but no high performing teams, peers and colleagues enforce that accountability. Exactly. And I think there’s an interesting pivot here, because I think a lot of organizations part of the struggle when you talk about that peer accountability and sharing things is, if I think about two pilots, they both realize that they need each other to support and you’ll have the first officer calling the captain at a rank, if he sees something or she sees something that’s, that’s inappropriate, or sees a potential error, right? Where, whereas I’ve seen that sometimes it gets called brother’s keeper, but that’s not the intent of at all, oh, I’ll help you cover it up in dysfunctional organizations, where make sure nobody knows or in some cases, they’ll say, sleep it off. So, if you’re drunk, rather than calling it out, just sleep it off. And in the seat, that’s a dysfunctional view of that, versus what you’re talking about is uncomfortable calling because there’s no ramification if you call it out, but I’m dealing with it because we need each other to be successful. Is that fair? Right? Oh, absolutely. And the example uses, I mean, you know, using the, you know, say that the drunk of your tie, it’s funny, you said that, because what you’ll see now is even an airline interviews now, what they’re looking for people that are, you know, looking out that they’re going to look out for the team look out for the other person in turn. In other words, you know, there used to be a common situational question was, you show up to the lobby of the hotel getting ready to go? And you know, you notice alcohol on the captain’s breath? What are you going to do? You know, your new hire? What are you going to say? What are you going to do?
What they don’t want is someone that’s going to, well, I’m going to call the company right away, I’m going to tell the chief pilot that this guy is drunk, and but what they want you to do is, number one is safety. Right? Do not let that captain, you know, do not let them nearby. For that’s the first thing, right? Whatever you have to do, hopefully, you want to make a scene doing it. And they want you to take that situation. And, you know, de-escalate that situation, in the best way possible. Right? Right. So how are you going to do that, you know, there’s different ways you can phone a friend, you know, you can talk to the captain say, Look, man call in sick, we’ll get this taken care of, you know, let’s just not get you do not get to the airport, you know, you may get you may get a slap on the wrist, but you’re at least you’re not going to sacrifice your license or the company or anything like that, by doing this, that’s the first thing. But the other thing they’re looking out for really, is that you’re looking out for the person, you know, you’re not just going to sell this person out and say, Well, I’m going to, you know, I’m going to call it, you know, company right now and call this person out. So, but you’re exactly right. I mean, that that’s really what it’s about. And when you talk about two pilots working together, you know, you want to establish that really starts with again, like I said earlier started leadership stats for the captain stylish in that tone, not just the pilot, but with a crew, the cabin crew, you know, the maintainers that the ground crew, everybody, you know, establishing that tone of Hey, look most guys and gals I fly with now will say this. They’re like, Hey, you know, if you see some Speak up, you know, no matter what it is, don’t assume I know everything. And that starts with establishing the tone. And he ate and again, talk is cheap. So, people can say that. But if you point something out to someone, hey, and there’s different ways when you talk about, we talk about crew resource management, Career Resource Management communications, you escalate it, like say we’re approaching a thunderstorm and a captain.
You see that thunderstorm? 100 miles out there. What do you think and just kind of, Oh, yeah, we’ll be fine? So, as we get closer, if they’re not turning and are Hey, you owe me.
Ask we can’t get No, we’ll be fine. And so, you keep escalating until it gets to the point of Hey, Captain, I recommend or think we should probably be exactly, you know, you kind of escalate that up, if you will. That’s one small example of how you handle things like that, and how you work together that peer accountability where you escalate the tone, the communication you’re using. And the other thing goes back to just the organization. How does the organization set it up? How does the organization train? I mean, when we train these skill sets, you’re talking about of how we work together, that’s ingrained in our training, how we communicate, how we were going to handle certain situations, how we divide duties, I mean, all these kinds of things go into that.
Right. So that gets me to crew resource management, which is another thing that’s often being quoted, at least in the airline industry as being a fundamental step change. And that occurred, can you share a little bit of some of the specifics there, because that that is an area where there’s been huge leaps, in terms of how you have that communication, front and back-end crews and the cases where it didn’t happen. We know the other incidences of planes getting shot down, etc., because it wasn’t the right communication, right. Absolutely. And, you know, my human factors leadership model is a poll a lot of the attributes, I think of crew resource management, some people call it team resource management, a poll a lot of aspects from that. So, if you carry that I think that that’s important is we kind of talked a little bit about communication, and more specifically with communication and crew resource management, communications, a big, big area, right. There’s a lot of things that I talked about tone, but there’s other things such as, you know, briefing, so you know, what are we expecting to happen really briefing is really kind of looking into the future, predicting what’s going to happen, so we’re better prepared. So, briefing, before we do something, something I call sea three, calm, clear, concise, correct. And clear, concise, correct speaks for itself. But what that really also means is no assumptions. So don’t ever assume anything. Because as we know, in the safety world, human factors, assumptions are always been a something that leads can lead to mishaps. So that’s, you know, one aspect, another aspect is situational awareness. I actually do a whole workshop on situational awareness. And it’s, you know, situation awareness is just that it’s the idea of all those variables affecting your current state at that time, everything from the environment that’s coming in, and how do we take all that in and determine our situation and determine our next course of action? how those variables and it’s a very, you know, when you’re especially working in a complex area, nuclear power aviation, you know, working on aircraft carrier, you name it, all complex environments with many different variables. So how do we take all that in? How do we can, you know, I talked about consistent monitoring, some monitoring, everything, you know, we’re doing some we’re flying an airplane as a crew and CRM part of CRM now is dividing duty. So, you have one pilot flying, and one we call pilot monitoring. Sure, so you’re not just over there asleep, just becoming, right, you’re, you’re monitoring the airplanes on autopilot, but you’re monitoring that aircraft is sure is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing? Correct. Um, and another way I put that is, I call it healthy paranoia, you know, a little bit of, you know, kind of little thing in the back of your head, right, that saying, hey, what could go wrong right now? You know, yeah, we’re flying along straight and level 25,000 feet on Oh, but what if I lost engine? Right? What would I do? You know, what if this happened? I mean, you’re not, you know, it’s not about being paranoid. But it’s about I call it again, healthy paranoia, just kind of an idea of kind of what is maintained to waste awareness. I’m part of CRM, I talked about, you know, pilot monitoring pilot flying his team roles, and team roles, well defined roles, delegation of duties, all that kind of stuff goes into mutual support, right. So, if we haven’t met, we have a critical situation. And this, like I said earlier, Human Factors looks as a human as a way to help mitigate human error. This is a great example, if we have a, you know, when things go normal 100%, point A to point B, great, you know, all the procedures, automation, everything’s great. But what happens when something doesn’t go normal, those non-standard situations, that’s when the human has to come in, that’s when the human has to come in and make that human decision making. And so, when all those things that happen, you start having a critical situation, how do you delegate duties? How do you determine if you have a time threat or a no time threat? So, in other words, do we have time to kind of look into this? Or is our time critical? Do we have a fire on airplane we need to land Pretty soon, we probably don’t have time to look at everything we need to we forgot to get the airplane on the ground quickly? So, you know, understanding team roles, mutual support, decision making, that time no time kind of goes into that when we make decisions understanding the perception before we make the decision. So, in other words, we may have a false perception of something and then if we did, we act on that, that’s bad. So, decision making goes into that a lot.
To that I talked earlier about decentralized execution. So having that leadership back to autonomy is a big part of CRM. And then you know, the final thing I’ll tell you about CRM, which part of the human factor’s leadership model is SRP standard operating procedures, right. So, ensuring were followed, because slaps are critically important, as you know, in HR Oh, and a lot of times I love it. When I bring this up in business. They’re like, Well, you know, the military, you guys have standards? And because you all, you know, your margin aligns, and you know, you do, we’re told and everything’s very structured, I’m like, Yes, but I’m, like, let me let me always give an example of, you know, flying fighters, or even an example of, say, a special operations team, such as Navy SEALs or something like that. And I said, do you think that when they drop a team, a Navy SEAL somewhere, they’re expecting them to follow orders to a tee and know the exact situation they’re going to face? They’re like, No, I’m like, exactly, exactly. They want them to have full autonomy, right? I mean, in. And that goes for almost every military organization, they want us to have that autonomous decision-making ability, because we’re not robots, they want us out there making it. But in order to do that standard operating procedures serves as guide rules, right? So, when you are out there making those autonomous decisions, and you’re saying, Hey, I’m going to make this decision. What you know, you’re at a crossroad, you say, Well, here’s our standard operating procedures wants us to do this. Okay, so I’m going to make this because that’s more in line with how our standards are written how our operating procedures want us to do. I mean, there are some things that are black and white, we have to do, always turn the switch on, always do that switch off, don’t ever do the opposite. But there’s always going to be the human factors that comes in there, and making those autonomous decision. So, making sure we understand the standard operating procedures, and adhering to them is another critical part of that of that CRM. So, communication, situation awareness, decision making team roles, and, you know, standard operating procedures. And I kind of put training under that as well. I love it, I think you brought in a lot of really good examples from the airline industry from fighting for being a fighter pilot. And really, I think this is this is the next leap in terms of safety is getting to that point where you’ve got adjust culture where people are comfortable, feel safe, raising issues, escalating issues, you’ve got the right level of support, and we’re looking at the system, the culture, trying to prevent things. So really appreciate you jumping in sharing your insights, your ideas, and all your wisdom from all your experience.
Well, I appreciate era, thank you so much. And, you know, always good you’re writing. And I think if I could sum it up, I think everything I talked about the way I look at it as human factors is, is really it’s looking at it from a systems-based approach, like you said, so it’s not about I mean, you’re never going to get rid of human error, as long as we have humans involved in it. The other example I’ll kind of leave you with is people say, Well, what about you know, as robots’ computers come more and more, we start seeing more automation? Okay, well, great. But I said, here’s the thing, you know, someone designs out automation, exactly, probably installs that automation, someone has to work on and maintain that automation. Someone designs a software, I mean, there’s always going to be human in the chain somewhere.
So that, you know, it’s all about a systems-based approach, and how we fix the system versus that blame and train approach, which as we found over the years really doesn’t get the results we want. Yeah, you bring an interesting point. Because even if you think about m cast the whole issue on the 737 Max, yeah, even if you go Airbus, and there was a, an issue, I think, was the Paris Air Show with it, where the rightest him thought he had landed, but he hadn’t landed and went into writers app. That’s a technology that’s a system but that’s designed by human that can still make a mistake in resigning. Exactly. And a lot of times we look at that in terms of well, you know, the engineers might say, they could have just done this, and that would have happened well, okay, maybe. But you know, do you really consider in a situation what the human actually sees, you know, you have to process that how much time that takes to go through what are they looking at? And there’s so many things that go into that. So, you’re exactly right. And those are great examples. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining in Brandon. If somebody wants to get in touch with you. How can they do that? Absolutely. Well, to see some more of my info we talked about, you go to my website and plenty material there. And also, my email address B as in Bravo, B. Williams, at lead dash tag COMM and there’s also a way to contact me on my website. But absolutely feel free to reach out more info or anything else for sure. Excellent. Thank you, Brandon. Thanks, I appreciate it.
The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski
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ABOUT THE GUEST
Brandon Williams is an accomplished and results-oriented leader, top business speaker, executive consultant, and technical expert with proven leadership experience in managing cross-functional teams and organizations. His experiences as a United States Air Force F-15E Fighter Pilot and Officer leading diverse teams of men and women from all backgrounds set the stage for his Human Factors Leadership methodology. In addition to his experience as a Fighter Pilot, Brandon is recognized for his expertise in Human Factors, having designed courses for and taught at several universities. His world-class execution of numerous speaking engagements to Business Leaders from all over the globe consistently deliver superior results in how to lead High Performing Teams through Complexity and mitigate Human Error.
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