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Training for Competence

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This book set out to address the issue of what ‘crew resource management’ (CRM) means in a systems context and how that translates into a set of behaviours necessary for an individual to function in that system in a competent manner. Three questions remain to be answered: what to train, how to train it and how to measure success. I am writing this chapter at a very peculiar time in the history of aviation. After years of growth and with the prospect of the Asian and, especially, Chinese markets offering enormous potential, the Covid-19 pandemic has almost brought the world to a halt. Aircraft are being parked, staff laid off and the prognosis is that it will take years for the industry to recover. At the same time, concern about global warming, and aviation’s environmental impact, is causing some to ask if we should even attempt to return to ‘business as usual’. Instead, perhaps the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to rethink the way the global economy works and the future role of air transport. Any thorough analysis of the problem should look at existing processes, including training, and question their validity for the future shape of the industry.

In this chapter, I will set out a framework of candidate competencies that flow from the systems model outlined in the book. I will illustrate how the competencies can be used to develop training curricula and then look at the methods available to effect behaviour change. We need to recognise that a training intervention is just one approach to bringing about change and I will consider alternative methods. Finally, truly resilient systems are based on robust skill sets. The fundamental goal of training is to bring about a change in behaviour or to support the maintenance of effective behaviours. This chapter offers some solutions to these problems while, in the next, we will look at measurement.

The Training Problem

Before moving on to the issues of what to train, how to train it and, then, measuring performance, I want to just return to the core question that arose in Chapter l: what is training supposed to achieve? I suggested that a good starting point was Wood’s view of a competence model as being an understanding of the variability and uncertainty faced by an operator - the demand side - coupled with an understanding of how the strategies, plans and countermeasures provided by the organisation - the supply side - will handle these. This book has elaborated on aspects of these two questions. In terms of variability and uncertainty, when we looked at the idea of threats we saw that these were, on the one hand, attributes of the operating environment that require a response from crew' but, on the other hand, by their very nature they can induce anxiety and increase workload, thereby impairing crew in proportion to an individual’s susceptibility. Figure 11.1 illustrates environmental variability. It shows the distribution of safety reports recording bird strikes submitted by one airline across a year. Most bird strikes are

Bird strike reports over 12months

FIGURE 11.1 Bird strike reports over 12months.

inconsequential but some can cause severe damage to an engine or, in the case of the Miracle on the Hudson, can even cripple an aircraft. The demand side of the equation requires that crew must cope not just with the range of environmental conditions encompassed by the operation but also the implications, manifested as stress and fatigue. Non-ergodicity dictates that crew will have to be able to constantly modify plans in real time. Because of cross-scale interactions, we know that crew may well be presented with device configurations and technical systems behaviours that have lain dormant or were not fully communicated. The crew will have to cope with conflicting goals, especially when working across organisational boundaries. On the supply side, we know that interfaces will be opaque, that policies and procedures will be underspecified and that the organisational context will trigger frustration and resistance.

A competence model will have to map onto the demand side while navigating the deficiencies in the supply side. This suggests that competencies will include skills associated with action and also with analysis and interpretation. In Chapter 1, we looked at the key aspects of ID and I suggested that a problem we faced was that the conventional tool kit was predicated on having a task to analyse. Having attempted to explore performance in the context of a system, we can now attempt to derive some ‘competencies’ that support that performance. We do have one issue to address before moving on: what constitutes ‘competence’ in relation to CRM? The approach taken throughout this book is that effective performance is goal-directed and comprises a suite of skills underpinned by robust knowledge structures. There is no separate entity called ‘CRM’. With that in mind, in the next section I want to outline a competence framework.

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