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Monday, July 25, 2011

LEARNING FROM PLANE CRASHES

Those that know me best know that I'm deathly afraid of flying.  That's right -- I've chosen a profession that takes to me through the airways on a regular basis!  So last week I was reading a book, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and as my plane was taxing down the runway for takeoff I turned the page to a chapter titled "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes." 

Even I had to chuckle at the irony!

But it ended up being an amazing chapter that has thoughts and theories that translate to a team that may "crash" and some of the reasons.  Here is some of what I learned from that chapter. My thoughts are in blue:

In a typical crash, for example, the weather is poor -- not terrible, necessarily, but bad enough that the pilot feels a little bit more stressed than usual (a little adversity usually is behind a team that "crashes" and it usually isn't as bad as the team crashing thinks).

In an overwhelming number of crashes, the plane ie behind schedule, so the pilots are hurrying (Coach Wooden -- "be quick but don't hurry"). 

In 52 percent of crashes, the pilot at the time of the accident has been awake for twelve hours or more, meaning that he is tired and not thinking sharply (teams that over train or are not fresh are possible "crash" victims). 

And 44 percent of the time, the two pilots have never flown together before, so they're not comfortable with each other.  Then the errors start -- and it's not just one error.  The typical accident involves seven consecutive errors (how many times does a team fall apart -- not because of one turnover, but because of extended poor play and mental mistakes).

The kind of errors that cause plane crashes are invariably errors of teamwork and communication (I repeat "errors of teamwork and communication).  One pilot knows something important and somehow doesn't tell the other something pilot.  One pilot does something wrong, and the other pilot doesn't catch the error.

The whole flight-deck design is intended to be operated by two people, and that operation works best when you have one person checking the other, or both people willing to participate (know and executing your roles).