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Culture

Once final, intangible, dynamic that shapes group behaviours is something we label ‘culture’ and which is probably best characterised as the group’s shared identity. Culture, broadly speaking, can be categorised as being a top-down or bottom-up property of a group. Top-down models are exemplified by the work of Hofstede (1993), who looked at managers across international divisions of a single company. His analysis identified a number of dimensions such as power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation. The work of Hofstede is highly problematic. The fact that the original study was on managers within a single, albeit large, organisation suggests that the sample might not be representative. If you looked at the questionnaire data, whereas means between countries might differ, the range of scores showed considerable overlap. Hofstede’s work was, nonetheless, the first to be widely adopted and underpinned early attempts to consider culture in aviation (Helmreich & Merritt, 2001). Helmreich identified three ‘cultures’: national, professional and organisational.

An opposing view is that culture is a bottom-up process of group identity creation. A study of safety culture in Japanese rail track maintenance teams (Itoh et al., 2004) demonstrated that there were as many ‘cultures’ as there were teams. In Table 7.1 I present some data for an airline’s command upgrade course pass rate by nationality. On the

TABLE 7.1

Command Course Pass Rates by Nationality

Nationality

% of Pilot Population

% Failure Rate

% of Trainers

A

26.16

12.8

37.7

В

16.87

10.7

29

C

15.22

19.4

12

D

11.49

60.8

5

E

7

33.3

1.2

face of it, the data might suggest either significant differences in ability between pilots of different nationalities or, possibly, discrimination in the workplace. However, significantly, there was no published graduation standard for the course. In the absence of an objective output standard, a ‘norm’ had been created that reflected the background of the dominant group, which could be described as ‘Male, British, Commonwealth and ex-Military was a bonus’. The ‘norm’ was socially transmitted through trainers having themselves been trainees. The oversight mechanism - management review - was the prerogative of senior members of the same culture who were also trainers. To be successful on the command upgrade, individuals not only had to demonstrate proficiency, they also had to conform to the prevailing ‘type’. Social ‘norms’ represent emergent culture within groups. In short, culture is the tacit set of rules that allow the group to cohere, the rules of group membership. Cultures are transmitted through assimilation and are reinforced through endorsement and preferment. Unfortunately, ‘cultures’ also allow risky practices to emerge and be condoned or, at least, ignored.

Conflict Resolution

Given that collaboration has ample opportunity to create tension between group members there needs to be a process for resolving conflict within a group. Sources of conflict can be overt, usually a disagreement over a course of action, or covert. Covert conflict might flow from a snub or insult.

Unfortunately, status and power can militate against effective conflict resolution simply because the position in the group affords control over the agenda. Lack of self-awareness, equally, can inhibit the emergence of a need for intra-group conflict management. One well-established concept of interpersonal relationships is that of ‘assertiveness’. Rooted in the concepts of civility and personal rights, assertiveness proposes that both parties have a position worthy of recognition. An assertive position sits between ‘aggression’ and ‘non-assertion’. An aggressive position is one-sided: ‘my views are more important than yours’. A non-assertive position is submissive: ‘do what you want, I just want a quiet life’. The assertiveness paradigm points to concepts already discussed: self-awareness and metacognition.

The significance of conflict in terms of group cohesion is underlined by recent research into workplace incivility fPorath et al., 2015). Incivility describes aggressive or abusive acts that demean the recipient. Often committed between seniors and subordinates in hierarchies they comprise a range of workplace behaviours from inappropriate jokes, public acts of humiliation, threats and intimidation. Research has shown that not only does incivility impair the performance of the recipients, it can also affect witnesses to those acts. The behaviour of the Learjet captain we saw at the opening of this chapter represents classic incivility.

Behaviour between Groups

The theme of this chapter has been within-group collaboration but work also occurs across organisational boundaries. We have seen examples of this with the АТС controller supporting the Little Rock crew, the refuellers working with the ATR-42

captain and the challenges of working with different agencies encountered by the B-777 crew diverting to Shemya. We can identify four dimensions of inter-group collaboration:

Domain agreement Solution agreement Positive evaluation Work coordination

Domain agreement relates to ownership of the parts of the task. In effect, who is responsible for what. Role ambiguity can sometimes inhibit domain agreement. For example, where one actor believes that their requirements should take priority agreement can be difficult. Solution agreement requires that all parties have a clear understanding of how work will proceed. This creates a requirement for a formal approach to planning. Positive evaluation requires parties to endorse and encourage one another. I once did an analysis of ramp safety events over a 3 month period. The two main parties involved were the cargo representatives and the ramp management staff. Approximately 50% of reports started with the comment ‘it was their fault’, meaning the other party, or ‘they admitted it was their fault’. This would not count as a positive evaluation. Finally, and hardly surprisingly, work needs to be coordinated. This usually involves active tracking of progress. Active support of other teams is facilitated by consideration of others’ needs, appreciating requirements for information, communicating in a timely manner and in a format that is understood by the other team.

Conclusion

This chapter has explored how work is undertaken in the public space between crew members. It has mapped out some of the formal, organisational structures that shape teams and looked at the social dynamics of humans at work. A number of themes have emerged. First, there is an overlap between processes at the individual level and at the group level but these processes are qualitatively different at Level 2. What is new at Level 2 is the emergence of a social dynamic that shapes performance. We have also seen that system-level performance involves both processes within and between groups. This chapter has looked at structures and forces that shape behaviour but collaboration is fundamentally powered by communication. That is the topic of the next chapter.

References

CAA. (2013). Monitoring matters. Guidance on the development of pilot monitoring skills. CAA Paper 2013/02.

Dismukes, R.K. & Berman. B. (2010). Checklists and Monitoring in the Cockpit: Why Crucial Defences Sometimes Fail. Moffat Field. CA: NASA Ames.

EASA. (2018). Notice of Proposed Amendment 2018-07(B). Update of ORO.FC — evidence- based training subtask RMT.0599.

FAA Advisory Circular 120-71A dated 27 February 2003.

Flight Safety Foundation. (2014). A practical guide for improving flight path monitoring. Final Report of The Active Pilot Monitoring Working Group. Alexandria. VA.

Hofstede, G. (1993). Cultures and Organisations: Software of the Mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Helmreich, R.L. & Merritt, A.C. (2001). Culture at Work in Aviation and Medicine National, Organisational and Professional Influences. Aldershot: Ashgate.

IATA. (2016). Guidance Material for improving flight crew monitoring. Montreal.

Itoh, K., Andersen, H.B., & Seki, M. (2004). Track maintenance train operators? Attitudes to job, organisation and management, and their correlation with accident/incident rate. Cognition Technology and Work. 6(2), 63-78.

NTSB. (2001). Report No: AAR-01-02: Runway overrun during landing, American Airlines Flight 1420, McDonnell Douglas MD-82, N215AA, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1 June 1999.

Porath, C.L., Foulk, T, & Erez, A. (2015). How incivility hijacks performance: It robs cognitive resources, increases dysfunctional behaviour, and infects team dynamics and functioning. Organisational Dynamics, 44(4), 258-265.

Senko, K.A. (2010). Qualitative Phenomenological Study of Leadership Perspectives in Commercial Airlines. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Phoenix.

Skybrary. (2018). Pilot Flying (PF) and Pilot Monitoring (PM), www.skybrary.aero

 
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